At fifty, my own life has not come
to much and my death sits in
a straight-back chair under a lilac bush
in the garden behind the house,
reading my old letters, waiting.
He is in no hurry to come knock
on the back door. There’s plenty to keep him
interested in the piles of my past
foolishness. Yours, too. On the other hand,
he has no intention of going
elsewhere, just wants to make sure
I notice him, every day, alert
in his straight-back chair.
— Bill Holm
Next month, God willing, I turn sixty. Whereas in earlier decades, I dreamed of one day becoming someone of significance — of accomplishing some notable feat; of writing something of great worth —I no longer dream these things. Today I want only a low profile. Today my goals are minor; indeed my goals border on near insignificance.
Penstemon in the Sand Hills: Fertile, MN
The world is in a troubled state. Civil unrest and pandemic concerns dominate the news-cycle; fear and anger pulse beneath the surface of most social interactions. Uncertainty tinges decision-making. Crystal balls are in short-order. Tea leaves tell varying tales. Psychics fear lawsuits.
My situation could be far worse. I could live in a war zone. Bombs could be falling; bullets could be flying; my family could be starving. In comparison, my troubles are few: my uncertainty is more certain than uncertain; my uncertainty is more stable than unstable.
Next month I will turn sixty. My comfortable life is threatened emotionally, physically and mentally by current events. Anger and uncertainty threaten my inner peace throwing me — and my fellowman — off-balance, causing us appear to each other as enemies. Sometimes I feel the blood pulsing behind my temples; I am, in turns, sad and angry, frightened and infuriated. My world could be worse; even so, the state of the world seeps-in and tinges daily life with uncertainty.
I walked the Agassiz Recreational Trail trail Friday evening waving away mosquitoes, dodging dragonflies. I photographed Showy Lady’s Slippers and harebells, Indian Paintbrush and crown vetch. I took a photograph of myself learning to use my late father’s Canon AE-1 film camera. Walking the trail Friday evening, alone in my purpose, I thought about turning sixty next month. I thought about the uncertainty that is now the rule in my life. And then I let it go — all uncertainty — and continued down the trail.
Holm, Bill. “Playing Hayden for the Angel of Death.” The Chain Letter of the Soul: New and Selected Poems, 163. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009.