Men at Forty (a poem by Donald Justice)
Donald Justice wrote an interesting essay, “Double Solitude,” in a recent New Yorker, probably more interesting to me because when I was living in Cleveland and applied to the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa (then called State University of Iowa, constantly confused with Iowa State University, thus the name change), it was Donald Justice who interviewed me and approved my application.
I’ve always like this poem he wrote, originally published in 1967:
Men at Forty
Donald Justice (b. 1925)
Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.
At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.
And deep in mirrors
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret
And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something
That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.