It started as an accidental glance—
Mine with a double take at you; and yours,
Without a blink, a gasp of recognition
At what we once described as signs of doom:
The liver spots; the turkey craws; the eyes
Grown big with thicker lenses—evidence
The enemy could read without assistance.
There’s more. I heard a wheeze on Friday night;
I saw a hesitating shuffle—mine?
Or was it yours?  Self-consciousness denied
A sure ID.  Some things do verge on certain:
The miracle of vitamins was not;
Blue jeans were just another uniform;
Children became adults and then our bosses;
And the dissolution that we saw consume
Our old republic was not a history,
But fictions that we told ourselves at dinner.
We are reluctant debutantes in this;
Had just attuned ourselves to dying parents
When commentators far too young to read
Began to note that we were going gray—
Retirement age, part-time Floridians,
The current audience at the Philharmonic;
The bald ones cheering Jagger and the Stones;
The café tables still debating Reagan;
The baseball fans who’d once seen Aaron play;
The children fleeing tear gas in Chicago.
The French called us les soixante-huitiemes—
Almost as old as our landmark year by now.
There’s no percentage, though, in looking back.
But, as I’ve turned to look ahead again
My vision is obscured by fog, through which
An unfamiliar chorus sings a hymn.
Whoever they are, they’ve gone too far ahead;
Even a jogging pace cannot keep up.
A sour lemon murmurs in my mouth:
The future has been passed to someone else.

Arthur Mortensen of Brooklyn has appeared in many journals and has three collections: A Disciple After the Fact, a novel in verse (Kaba Press); Life in the Theater, sequel, and Why Hamlet Waited So Long (San Sebastian Press). Upcoming is After the Crash, currently in submission. He has been editor & publisher of Somers Rocks Press, Pivot Press, and is Webmaster of