Poetry

Le Vieil Homme Assis

after Picasso

He’s taken possession of the hat Van Gogh wore

to keep the crazing sun off his head. On him

the crown’s bottle green but its wide brim is eager

to soak up the straw and sunflower heat filling

the space behind it and look, at the back of his chair—

it’s having an affair with yellow. The huge crab hands

at the end of the sleeves—one’s viridian,

one ultramarine—are still full of strength.

The energy in his black eye ovals is turned inwards

maybe to contemplate his small future but he still

makes lines zip, swing into laughter, still knows

how to shape love, goes deep whenever he chooses.

This is old age not caring a damn if all its buttons

are undone, its trousers are awry, its bare stomach    

in view, vulnerable. This is old men gone to seed,

truculent, petulant, their years, their knowledge

and experience shut away at the back of drawers

but pulled out at once for anyone who will listen.

This is mon père—my father dressing-gowned

on his throne in the Home, joking and kind with helpers

he trusted, failing to rule the others, complaining

about the world and its incompetent governments.

God knows what he’d say about the state we’re in now,

As we age do we all feel the world is falling apart?…

Those hands, I look again, want to take their grip into

myself—and the power in the eyes, the orange warmth

behind the chair, before I turn and go back to my life.

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