Fifty

He said if you keep punishing

yourself like this you’ll be old

by the time you’re fifty

and right there in the instant

of him saying it I became fifty

I was never able to go back

and it was never made clear to me

what might have transpired

in the obliterated years between

had I performed myself inside them

exceedingly quickly or had I

not lived them at all

I felt as though I had memories

a deaccessioned painting

hovel with keyhole doorway

anecdotes of conglomerates

and their cocktail-napkin origins

was I supposed to be charmed

hardest of all was the recentness

of every egregious outburst

every midnight plummet

the adjacency I couldn’t wish away

I was fifty and my worst

mistakes I’d made just yesterday

Natalie Shapero is the author of the poetry collections Hard Child and No Object. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, Poetry, and elsewhere. She teaches at Tufts University.


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