The only old man in the world — a poem

Drawing of a live man in a coffin saying Ouch! Ow! Sore!

Some people regard oldness as a competition which they are obliged to win

Once there was a man who reached
the ripe old age of fifty
on 31 October, the day
the dead walk out. “Oh oh oh!”
he moaned. “You don’t know what it’s like
to be this old! The aches and pains,
the slowing down, and worst of all
the chronic loss of joy!

I remember bursting with it
bursting with testosterone
bursting with a wildness
bursting with wasabi joy
smashing icons every week
and falling into romance
with every second breath.
I never missed a beat.
Now I feel a mildness
invading me like mould.
I am clean I am collared
I am battered I am bland
I am whipped and I am old!

And you don’t understand.
I have to suffer all alone!
You don’t know what it’s like
to stare into the black abyss.
I’m just a lump of rotting meat
with nothing left ahead
but misery monotony and death!
You’re young, you just don’t get it
but mark my words,
you will find out one day!”

“Thanks for your advice,” his wife
replied. “I’m glad you told me this.
Otherwise, how would I know?
For after all, I’m only forty-nine.”


Drawing, poem and exclamation marks CC BY 2.0 Rachel McAlpine. 

17 thoughts on “The only old man in the world — a poem

  1. If we could only tell these youngsters how good life can be for such a long time yet! I was laughing as I read, and even moreso with the twist at the end. Thank you!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Aha. Crazy world.

  2. Isn’t 50 the new 16, or something like that? 🙂

  3. Jonno says:

    Nice one, really enjoyed it. Like the twist although fifty seems a long time ago now so ……….

  4. joel says:

    In the space of two days this week I was told by a seven year old (with a horrified expression on her face) that I’m practically half a century old, and by a 70 year old how ‘oh, you’re still so young!’ A curious age to be, I’m finding. 😎

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, one worth thinking about but not worth fearing.

  5. srbottch says:

    So funny. 50 sounds so young, now.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      The wife thought it was young at the time, too.

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It was not old at the time either. Some people are just drama queens.

  6. hilarymb says:

    Hi Rachel – certainly sounded old back then … yet young now … such is life … Loved the poem though and the twist – fun read … even if I’m adding one to my number over this weekend! – cheers Hilary

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      50 hasn’t seemed old for over 100 years in my family. Some people are just like that.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I was just reflecting on how much more energy to wallpaper and paint I had when I was 50. Now the prospect of repapering the living room stuns me.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I understand — I used to relish jobs like that and then … I stopped. But that felt fine because I had the satisfaction under my belt. I said to myself, I’m good at this and I don’t have to do it any more. Priorities change. The thrill had gone. Is that what you are feeling?

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I also got afraid of ladders in the intervening 20 years. Too many people I know have had bad falls. So the thrill of accomplishing new paper or paint is tempered by prudence.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Good thinking

  8. Erica/Erika says:

    Hi Rachel, I definitely come from the perspective that 50 is still young. Some “aches and pains” as you mentioned. Thankful and fortunate with good health. Thank you for sharing. Erica

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Good to know this! This old man was at the extreme and ridiculous end of the self-pity spectrum 🙂

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