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C.G. Hanzlicek

C.G. Hanzlicek

C. G. Hanzlicek is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which is The Cave: Selected and New Poems, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2001.

On Turning 65

From now on it's late
—Tomas Tranströmer
The actor's nightmare:
Opening night, center stage, the big soliloquy,
And he's forgotten his lines.
The professor's nightmare:
First day of classes, two hours late, the wrong room,
And because the teacher is also an actor of sorts,
He's forgotten his lines.
When I retired from teaching six years ago,
That nightmare, I'm happy to say,
Retired with me.
Now there's almost nothing I need to remember.
For 40 years my inamorata
And I have returned to the same place:
Motel on the beach of the central coast.
After this birthday dinner,
We sat on the balcony and lifted glasses of champagne
To toast my Medicare card.
For the third day in a row, a blue whale
And her calf spouted and breached
And held their dripping tail flukes high for us.
They even came shoreward
From the shallows marked by the buoy,
But always at high tide
When there was depth enough for those great bodies
With their elephant-sized tongues,
Hearts as big as Buicks.
Only ten thousand of them left in our hemisphere;
It's hard to know how we deserved this drama.
Maybe it's simple:
We saw them, while others walked the strand
Unaware of those huge blown breaths.
Back home, two days older,
I sit in the grass and read Transtromer,
His poems delicate and quiet as drawn breath,
While a mourning dove coos, loud as an owl.
In the dappled light next to me,
A lime green, iridescent beetle lumbers.
He climbs a blade of grass,
But halfway up gravity drops him on his back.
His legs whip, slowly he rights himself
To climb and fall again.
Ten poems later, he's gained
Less than that in inches.
The metaphor is obvious:
This is the progress of the poet,
This flopping along,
Trying to draw the world
Into a hard shell and then breathe it out
Onto the void of blank paper.
There is only one thing I have to remember:
From now on it's late.
Soon the crickets
Will draw the darkness down to them.

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