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To Old Age

You hurried through my twenties as if there were nowhere to look
For what you were searching for, perhaps my first trip to China.
You said “I love that country because they love everything that’s old
And they like things to look old—take the fortune cookies for example
Or the dumplings or the universe’s shining face.” I said
“Chopsticks don’t look old,” but you were hurrying
Past me, past my love, my uncomprehended marriage, my
Nine or ten years nailed in the valley of the fools, and still you
were not there,Wouldn’t stop there. You disappeared for a year
That Ispent in Paris, came back to me in my father’s face
And later in my mother’s conversation. You seemed great in the palm
treesDuring a storm and lessened by the boats’ preceding clops.
Looking at a gun or at a tiger Inever thought I was standing facing you.
You were elsewhere, rippling the sands or else making some boring
conversationAmong people who scarcely knew each other. You were left by Shelley to
languishAnd by Byron and by Keats. Shakespeare never encountered you. What are
you, old age,That some do and some do not come to you?
Are you an old guru who won’t quit talking to us in time
For us to hang up the phone? You scare me half to death
And Isuppose you will take me there, too. You are a companion
Of green ivy and stumbling vines. If Icould break away from you
I would, but there is no light down in that gulch there. Walk with me,
thenLet’s not be falling…this fiery morning. Grand age, nous voici!
Old age, here we are!

—Kenneth Koch

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