by Jo McDougall

Growing up in a small town,
we didn't notice
the background figures of our lives,
gray men, gnarled women,
dropping from us silently
like straightpins to a dressmaker's floor.
The old did not die
but simply vanished
like discs of snow on our tongues.
We knew nothing then of nothingness
or pain or loss—
our days filled with open fields,
turtles and cows.

One day we noticed
Death has a musty breath,
that some we loved
died dreadfully,
that dying
sometimes takes time.
Now, standing in a supermarket line
or easing out of a parking lot,
we realize
we've become the hazy backgrounds
of younger lives.
How long has it been,
we ask no one in particular,
since we've seen a turtle
or a cow?


  1. Heart wrenching! Filled with the sadness of lost youth and the coming of old age.

  2. so sad but very beautiful. Not the best thing for me to read on this cold and rainy day.

  3. I never envisioned feeling like a straightpin but I'm afraid it's coming into focus. Have you got a poem up your sleeves about about gracious acceptance? Desperately seeking something to erase the tape from my mom: "It's hell getting old."

  4. I can dance and I can take pictures!

  5. This takes my breath true, so very true...


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