Poems for May

My Birthday Present

Seventy-nine, seventy-nine,
I say it over, and every time
it sounds peculiar. Is it a prime?
It’s a queer number, seventy-nine.
I will enter my eightieth year
tomorrow evening somewhere near
six o’clock, around dinnertime,
my mother told me. That’s a queer
hour to be born, or to enter an eightieth year.
But all of it’s queer, being here.
Thinking how what I thought was mine
was only borrowed, and what was dear
has been forgotten, and every line
I’ve written will become a sign
for nothing at all, given time.
But that’s what I was given, time.
That’s my present, present time.


The Arts of Old Age
        written in the airport

I learn the arts of old age day by day:
the expertise of being lame; the sense
of unimpatient impotence;
the irony of all accomplishments;
the silent, furtive welcome of delay.


Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)


A pair of poems I found back-to-back in Le Guin’s collection Finding My Elegy (2012). I enjoy the way the second poem leads back into the first. To ‘welcome’ the ‘delay’ is not, finally, to entertain illusions of immortality; it is an invitation back to the present moment.


Ursula K. Le Guin, Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems 1960 – 2010 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012)

Featured image of Ursula K. Le Guin accessed at this link https://literary-arts.org/archive/ursula-k-le-guin-5/