Just more than a month ago, I promised my friend Thea that although another commitment would keep me away from the September Springfield Poets and Writers open mic she hosts downtown, I would attend the October gathering and share two new poems and recite a Vachel Lindsay poem (as I always do). During the month that followed, I thought a lot about the two poems I had promised to write. Some travails in my life made it hard to find quiet minutes to think creatively and produce two poems. On October 16, I decided to attend the gathering, but to apologize for not writing anything new. People would understand unforeseen changes and consequences. No money would be harvested from making good my promise. Thea as the only one who knew I’d made it anyway. But my WORD, my INTEGRITY as a poet and hummin’ bean were riding on that promise, and that mattered more to me. Tuesday evening, fresh into my AeroKnow Museum office,after a positive day at my employer, from 5:20 to about 6:15, I wrote the promised poems and for 45 minutes revised them and called them DONE. I printed copies and took them home; revised them: tweaked them here and there. The morning of October 18, at the office, I revised them for the last time before attending the event downtown. The evening went okay. I read these poems and recited Vachel Lindsay’s “On the Building of Springfield.”
The title of this first poem requires emphasis on “Not” to better understand the first line. It is significant to me because for the first time in my life, I have written the word “ain’t” into a poem. I’d love to discuss details of how the poem came together , but face-to-face; not here.
I’ve Not Lived 70 Trips Around the Sun
by Job Conger
written 6:30 pm October 17, 2017 at the airport museum office
I’ve lived 69 trips and three weeks;
Jeez, I’ve only just started the 7 – ohs.
Yet, already, I sense, I have purchased, for the last time,
new shoes for to shelter my heels and my toes.
I wonder if I’ll ever buy another shirt
because really, those I own now fit me fine.
The belts I’ve owned for decades have grown longer,
thanks to help from my retreating waistline.
My brain is as sharp as it was after 19 trips ’round the sun
though outlook and emotions seem a century old.
It’s harder than hell to stay cool in the heat
and even harder to stay warm in the cold.
I’m looking for comfort from creative wisdom
which, as of today, ain’t arrived.
In this ling’ring last chapter of my life’s epoch-novel
it’s no comfort to say “I survived.”
At my age it’s too late for straw-fisted alibis;
wan retorts to life tide’s ebb and flow,
too late for anything but harnessing the will
to prevail and to not let go.
As I wrote “Hello Future” I considered I might never share a poem in public again. I was terribly CRUSHED by an event downtown on the square last July and concluded there was no point in continuing be beat the funeral drum about that debacle because people I know and like would not understand, and they would only resent me for sharing my woe. I was ready to walk away and never come back. Last night I changed my mind. Even so, I meant what I said in this poem.
by Job Conger
written at the airport museum office October 17, 7:00 pm
Dreams cherished and nourished
with hope in my heart
now wither in late wisdom’s dust:
dreams that never again will arise to impart
a bright path to the sun through the rust.
Younger friends once close. . . . . now not . . .
engage lives of their own
with no time to listen to my doubts and fears.
It’s time to be gone
from those who brought me laughs.
Good bye babble and winking and lyrical gaffs
and imperiously judging the wheats from the chaffs. . . . . . . .
Hello to the good-bye years.
Thanks for reading this poem. Have a nice day.