Lust—a poem for older people

Red-toned photo of the Hadron Collider interior

I forgot to say that I’ve had husbands
I’ve had lovers in my day.
And they mattered.
They mattered far too much.

I revolved around them
in the particle collider
of audacious—luscious—
cunningly self-justifying lust

and also in the aftermath
when caring meant protecting them
solving problems
that they didn’t see

mothering bothering wincing
spinning in a dafter kind of busyness
than the existential dizziness
of you-are-my-destiny.

Round about August 2004
I stopped lusting after men
and men stopped lusting after me.
There were no more.

What synergy!
What symmetry!
How comforting when lust
is in the past.

I remember passion
I remember sweet affection
I remember trusting
I remember touch.

Meantime it’s a good day:
I woke up!
I have pressures, problems, people.
How pedestrian. Hooray!

It’s a bad day when a poem
turns to paisley in olive and maroon
or if I need a plumber
on a Friday afternoon.

Rachel McAlpine 2019


It’s OK, you don’t have to tell me: I do know that love and sex can flourish in old age, even extreme old age. If that’s your path, that’s marvellous, but I feel no envy. Sex is not mandatory at any age, and some of you will recognise the cheerful reality expressed in this rather frank poem about how lust can recede as you get older, and how, for some, that is just fine. Love, on the other hand, just grows and grows, broader and softer.

“Lust” began as three tiny poems dangling in mid-air. Then I saw the connections and quickly it grew into a truth for me, at almost 80. Luckily, this poem did not turn to paisley in olive and maroon, a style that I don’t favour.

Red-toned photo of the interior of Hadron Collider CC BY 2.0 Kathleen Maher, via Flickr.

32 thoughts on “Lust—a poem for older people

  1. Sadje says:

    Well said! A nice realistic poem.

  2. monalsharma says:

    Amazing poem nice though

  3. mpardi2013 says:

    When you want what you have, you have what you want. Buddhist saying.

    1. That describes me to a T, fortunately. It’s an aphorism that makes sense especially for our final decades. Thanks.

  4. I absolutely love this Rachel, and can totally appreciate the sentiments.
    If there were less testosterone around, the world would be a much nicer place.
    So many people cannot see that love, and lust, are totally separate poles of the human compass, but sometimes poles can collide!

    1. Not sure about your geography but delighted by your response. Thank you Peter!

  5. Delicious!

    1. Thanks Bev. That’s how it is… For some of us.

      1. And not only a delicious state to arrive at, but delicious language and delicious memories.

      2. Yes –thank you! As for memories, do you know the song “hello young lovers” in The King And I? I heard it as a young woman and even then, I liked the sentiment.

  6. I like the sentiment of your poem. You might say “She travels HAPPIEST who travels alone.” No co-dependence, free to make decisions without consultation. Such a Noah’s Ark Society out there — feeling we all have to “pair off.”

    1. Noah’s Ark! Very funny. I’m not a good bet as a breeder right now.

      1. Nor I. Ha ha.

  7. rhinophile says:

    Another great topic for poems and conversation, Rachel! I am enjoying the postscripts to your poems, especially when they circumvent potential advice you clearly don’t need! I saw a play at the Melbourne Festival in 2017called ‘All the sex I’ve ever had’, originally performed by a Canadian troupe, but as it tours, the panel is chosen from local talent ‘over 65’. It was such an enjoyable night of stories, right through the spectrum from fond memories to perhaps some regret. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s refreshing to read and listen to older people ‘admitting’ that they once had intimate relationships or that they still do. And now I am one of those older people!!

    1. I’m so glad you like the postscripts. It occurred to me that when reading in public, every poet prefixes the poem with a short or horribly long … not explanation but expansion. I used to think this was useful because it gave readers a break from listening to poems, where every word counts. Now I think that people appreciate being encouraged to think around the poem, beyond it, behind it. Which is exactly what you have done in your comment! Hm, great title for the Canadian play.

  8. There are indeed worthy compensations.

  9. Even at the age of 67, there’s a man I’m in lust and/or love with. We had our first brief tryst in our 20s , and then he got back in touch with me about a year ago. It is a strange relationship. Neither of us wants to marry again or live together. We both need lots of space and privacy. Still, though, there’s something that keeps us seeing each other from time to time.

    1. That’s exciting for you both! But yes, it must be tricky figuring out the details.

  10. This is simply marvellous. I love how you celebrate at each turn.

    1. So good, thank you!

  11. anne leueen says:

    Delightful! I am with you on this subject. Lust was a source of poor choices in my past and I am lucky that none of those poor choices led to anything that drastically affected my life.

    1. Whew! They never seem poor at the time, so they?

      1. anne leueen says:

        No they do not. And I am glad that phase of my life is over. Peace!

  12. What a good and honest poem to discover on the 30th anniversary of marriage to my most beautiful and precious second wife. What a happy day when I noticed that it was not absolutely necessary to be cunning and self justifying and that if I still am from time to time, I will not be abandoned and I will not abandon myself. The small joys, pleasures, the underlying, aching knowledge that death will eventually part us, all fit perfectly together, like when your right hand takes hold of your left and you just give yourself a little squeeze. Thanks for the poem, Rachel.

    1. Charlie, your comment is itself a poem. I hope your wife reads it and loves it as I do. In honor of your anniversary my left hand and my right hand have just had a little cuddle.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    I laugh with my friends at the gym that we were all doing fine before Viagra came along. Before that things seemed to have balanced out nicely!

    1. Not fair!

  14. auntyuta says:

    There were times during my 62 years marrage when I would have loved to be single. But now, in old age, I am quite happy that we’re still married and together and enjoying our extended family: Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren! 🙂

    1. Yes there are massive advantages to marriage once the grandchildren start to arrive.

  15. auntyuta says:

    Actually there were difficulties with contraception for quite a while. And during menopause things didn’t improve much. But then during the last twenty years or so we’ve led a very good married life. We seem to have been making up for lost time! 🙂
    Our youngest daughter turned 40 last December and our oldest grandchildern (twins!) turned 40 a few weeks ago! 🙂

    1. That’s good news and would astonish some young people.

  16. quiall says:

    I still have feelings of lust (just turned 60) but it is for more of the chocolate variety!

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