I started reading a poetry collection recently; don’t know what came over me. There were poets from every nation, every century, every stylistic genre– and after the name of each poet, were the years of his or her life. Born, bla bla bla. . .Died. . . . . . . huh.
At first, I started doing the math when the dates were really close together: Percy Bysshe Shelley was only 29 when he (poetically) drowned. John Keats was. . .what? 25? Was he even shaving yet? Alexander Pushkin was 38. Raymond Carver was 50.
Then, I stopped reading the poetry altogether. I just kept feverishly doing the math. I found myself in a new space in the universe at that moment. These poets had attained a status I might never reach, a kind of immortality, if you will.
But I had, or have, performed a simpler, grander feat: I have outlived them. (Not ALL of them, obviously: Bless you, Carl Sandburg. But, yes, most.)
Something happens to you when you turn 6o, apparantly. Or, it happened to me. The idea of “borrowed time” pops into one’s head. It’s all completely random, is the thing. There is no logic to the fact that Princess Diana was snuffed out before the age of 40. Or Phillip Hughes, the Australian cricketer who died freakishly last week in Australia at age 25. The idea of an unnaturally-short life has the kind of pulsing tragedy that keeps me awake at night, and makes me feel. . .is it guilt?
I find myself turning my head, as if someone or something is standing behind me, with a message of some kind. But of course, the moment my eyes and mind focus on that space. there is nothing there.
Of course there isn’t.
It’s up to me to put it there.
What do you think? Are you 60 or more? What do you think about it?