W. D. Ehrhart  

Turning Thirty

    It isn't that I fear
growing older—such things as fear,
reluctance or desire
play no part at all
except as light and shadow sweep a hillside
on a Sunday afternoon,
astonishing the eye but passing on
at sunset with the land
still unchanged: the same rocks,
the same trees, tall grass gently drifting—
merely that I do not understand
how my age has come to me
or what it means.

It's almost like some small
forest creature one might find
outside the door some frosty autumn morning,
tired, lame, uncomprehending,
almost calm.
You want to stroke its fur,
pick it up, mend the leg and send it
scampering away—but something
in its eyes says, "No,
this is how I live, and how I die."
And so, a little sad, you let it be.
Later when you look,
the thing is gone.

And just like that these
thirty years have come and gone,
and I do not understand at all
why I see a man
inside the mirror when a small
boy still lives inside this body
what causes laughter, why
nations go to war, who paints the startling
colors of the rainbow on a gray vaulted sky,
and when I will be old enough
to know.
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    Copyright © 1980 by W. D. Ehrhart
The Samisdat Poems, Samisdat, 1980
This poem currently appears in Thank You For Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, 2019

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