SONGS OF OLD AGE

by Noragh Jones


 
I canít go on Iím going on somehow only Iím not telling the story any more the storyís telling me I donít know the ending I only know whatís happening now Iím forgetting things all the time different doors are opening I donít recognise the rooms in this house they say is mine everything looks new and strange the furniture too where is my favourite chair it doesnít matter any more I canít get any proper rest Iím tired out
 
oh yes I know Iím going to die this month next month not long to go now but what good is it knowing that what are you supposed to do about it pray or feel sorry for yourself or be glad of the relief or look forward to a toyland eternity there must be another way the way of uncertainty maybe like that ancient Zen poem by Fumon I found on a calendar and cut out for no reason:

magnificent! magnificent!
no one knows the final word
the ocean bedís aflame
out of the void leap wooden lambs

I like that Iím a non-knower in my story now so why am I bothering why not just embrace the emptiness delight in the void not so easy I canít stop the words coming I canít get through to the unwords and the silence anyway emptiness is all very well in dreams but not much help when us oldies are supposed to be still competing in the Help Yourself to a Full Life Stakes?

twilight in the garden
an old stone toad
snapping stone insects

ah but the kindness of strangers my neighbour keeps an eye on me she says I should have a little holiday in the sun get away from it all for a month or so wintering abroad is the thing for senior citizens these days I laugh to myself Iím on my final journey as it is what is the point of rushing about the world on your last legs and dropping dead in Malaga airport or the Promenade des Anglais this old bodyís had enough of everything its been eighty years of longing for everything loving and hating everything learning and forgetting everything laughing and crying at everything surely it must be time for nothing now if ever but what kind of nothing thatís the question?
 
letting go is easy so much just drops away anyway because your mind and body let you down thatís what the floating world calls it AGE LETTING YOU DOWN but the messages donít see it like that I donít know but I think the messages are telling me this is the last chapter of my story telling itself the story is trying to tell me too itís trying to get me moving out of my lonely rickety old body into Big Body I donít have to bother the messages say just let the clinging things go get rid of the rubbish do my Autumn clear out and MAKE A SILENCE WHERE I CAN HEAR THE STORY ENDING
 
maybe thatís what Iím trying to do these days Iím no good at it but I suppose I have to go on doing this kind of nothing to get to the end of the story mind you itís very hard to give up telling my own story and let it tell me instead thatís not been my style me a working woman and star of my own destiny but no harm in giving it a chance besides Iím curious to know the end of the story thatís not it I mean be there in the story till the end no choice anyway with mind and memory going to pieces and unreliable limbs letting me down with a jolt and a jar nothing for it but give myself over to the Big Storyteller in the Sky or whatever it is that keeps me going on when I canít go on?
 
the days pass quietly enough maybe Iím getting into some rhythm of the unknowable itís easier now Iíve got rid of the certainties that you think you have when you are telling your own life now Iím letting life tell me I have more time for the geraniums and the sunshiny bursts of rain and the visits of the old grey cat and above all the nothingness I still have flurries of busyness mostly these days getting rid of things emptying out the ragbag of old thoughts and feelings and making space for the serene silence

yellowed love letters
curling in the flames
my watering eyes

ah postcards from lost countries photos of forgotten people on to the fire with them theyíre all gone and heaven knows who they are I canít remember the faces squinting into summer suns and captured on box Brownies I stir the flames as best I can with my white cane a good job done except it dawns on me that getting rid of things is still not the nothing Iím looking for thereís something else only what is it?
 
going inside I absent-mindedly water the geraniums in the porch I water them far too often because I forget but this evening they donít mind theyíre flaming in such a sunset itís too much for me I go flabby and collapse into the nearest chair smiling for nothing

this red geranium -
weak with reality
I forget to be

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