Wherever I volunteer I find myself
compassionately pushed to the periphery
like trash on a lake.
I don't blame the young.
I know how I must look to them
with my tissue paper skin
flaking from too many suns
and the flesh-colored hearing aid
stuck in my ear like chewing gum,
the bad shave and cologne
and the dentures that stain
the angles of my mouth with drool.
Mornings when I shuffle in
stooped like a question mark,
my sharp knees poking
through my slacks like coat hangers,
I can't help thinking
they wish I were a ghost
instead of a prophecy.
(published in Contrary)
One of the symptoms of clinical depression is the illusion of premature old age, often accompanied by fears of failing health. It's ironic that someone who entertains thoughts of suicide simultaneously suffers fears of impending physical doom. Then I remember what my mother always said about auto accidents: "I don't mind being killed, I just don't want to be maimed--and I don't want to linger."
For those who have forgotten their Edith Hamilton, Tithonus was a mortal whom a goddess loved. She asked Zeus that he might receive eternal life but forgot to request eternal youth. Thus she watched him shrivel and decay until he was mercifully transformed into a cricket.
T. S. Eliot wrote in the persona of an old man at age 30 in "Gerontion," and also explored the theme in several passages of Four Quartets. Yeats, on the other hand, in poems like "Among School Children," explored the them of old age when he was old. So did Tennyson in "Ulysses."