Soul

What am I doing inside this old man’s body?
I feel like I’m the insides of a lobster,
All thought, and all digestion, and pornographic
Inquiry, and getting about, and bewilderment,
And fear, avoidance of trouble, belief in what,
God knows, vague memories of friends, and what
They said last night, and seeing, outside of myself,
From here inside myself, my waving claws
Inconsequential, waving, and my feelers
Preternatural, trembling, with their amazing
Troubling sensitivity to threat.
And I’m aware of and embarrassed by my ways
Of getting around, and my protective shell.
Where is it that she I loved has gone, as this
Sea water’s washing over my shelly back?

David Ferry, local luminary and recent winner of the $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement, brings me face-against-the-glass with the experience of aging in this wonderful short poem. The sensations he describes start to appear while we are still mid-lifed and vital, but slowly they become steady features. The metaphor of the waving claw, inconsequential, is haunting. That is a sense I know something about already—motioning, maddeningly, to no avail.

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