How to be old—we're all learning

A family secret—a poem

Why a proud mother and grandmother does not write about her own children and grandchildren. A poem about superstition and the power of poetry.

I will never be honest with you, my reader.
I will let you think my family
starts and ends abruptly
with mother, father, sisters.

I will never let you know
that I have daughters, sons
and grandchildren
and most of them have partners.

I never write about them
although there’s plenty to say
but what if a poem nudged them
to change, to be a certain way?

What if they felt defined
or worried or constrained
by a fragment of perception
falling one day from my fingers?

That could be fatal
because they’re perfect
all of them gods in veils
living gentle shiny lives.

And if that bastard Death
should cast his bloody eye their way
I will always bellow, “Look at me!
I’m old! Pick me! Pick me!”

Rachel McAlpine