Remember the instant flash in photo booth

us aping at the world, daring it to


Carnaby Street back when it was feral

during day you could walk into magazine offices

snag a t-shirt and catcalls for your troubles

at night, rinsed with delight, fall into clubs

obedient to time’s begotten rule

let in the youth, let them in at any cost.

Did we know then, could we guess?

With your straight-A’s and my thick glasses

the sculpture of life that lay ahead?

I think we did not, for it is the weft of piss

and vinegar, else youth would crumble

before it were even born

that charm and bluster, a false flag against fate

terrifying adults as they watch repeated

their own invariable mistakes.

They say history will replay for those who do not know it

but that is only part the story

it is our naïveté and courage brings both

sweetness and horror

if we knew what swam down the pike

in our direction, we’d swerve natural order

vivisection and delight, playing on rusty key

jarring to those who have heard it before

golden to the ingénue.

What I see in your face now

30 years hence, flung in no time spent

are the laugh lines of your mother

who always had the best skin

the patience of your father, with

his long fingers playing air and dream

just as you, once thirsting, now sate

sit in sun and feel the submersion of its

everlasting rays and in the same voice

years ago, years hence, now laugh

a survivor of yourself and everything

that can break us, you hold your child

to yielding light and turn to me;

I think he’ll be a little heartbreaker

you say, as if just for a moment

you were able to move time and peer through

that cloudy looking glass

we raise time and again

to them, to those, to us.

23 Replies to “Prescience”

  1. “Youth is the most precious thing in life; it is too bad it has to be wasted on young folks.” (George Bernard Shaw)
    But if that be so, would we, now old and bruised against the world, even given back the strength and smooth skin of those years, bravely repeat the follies and mad adventures which we now recall with nostalgic dread and laughter mixed with cringing in equal measure? Would we? Ah, but time and life do not see fit to temp us so.

  2. One of my favorite quotes, I have found it to be very true. There is of course, another side to that, but over-all it rings more true than false. the only thing about being older is sometimes the jaded approach doesn’t help you progress so maybe that’s why youth are free of some of it. So they can go forward when they must.

  3. Gosh thank you! this is so perfect! But you always know this my friend!

  4. Gosh thank you! this is so perfect! But you
    always know this my friend!

  5. It is a great challenge to become wise instead of merely jaded. I think the old need the young around to remind us to still dream and play. It might be a great mistake to allow or encourage old people to segregate themselves in “retirement communities” and for assisted living programs and nursing homes to be separate from pre-schools and kindergartens.

  6. You plucked the thoughts out of my mind. I had been contemplating this only yesterday. Thinking of how many become jaded with age usually and how challenging to avoid that and become wise or thoughtful or still merciful? Maybe partly because of the redundancy society labels older people with, that doesn’t help. But also their feeling that they have ‘done their bit’ and leaving to new gens, when really they are the ones who should be leading the way, but hard to do with so many other things going on, still it surely is the only thing that makes sense, even if you do it in little ways, like guiding someone or writing something, rather than fading away.I hope I will never do that, but who can tell? I would not condemn those who choose to, life is hard. I agree it s amistake to segregate the elderly to places where they cannot partake in the formation of life, as if we say as a society no they are no longer relevant. what rot.

  7. Wouldn’t that be something? I so appreciate you reading my friend (and you are, with bells on)

  8. For far longer than even our evolution as hominids, the extended family has been the unit of survival, back at least to our common ancestor with the chimps and bonobos. It is only very recently that we have split that unit into the independent elder couple, and separate younger couple raising children. I read an anthropologist ( I forget who) who propounded the idea that our brain evolution and language really took off when people were living long enough for there to be grandmothers present. He may be right.

  9. Exactly. Which is why it’s weird when you don’t have family/extended family, it’s not really natural order and all that but so much isn’t these days. The idea of shoving the older to the side just doesn’t make sense. In that one respect China had it right. Definitely agree about language and evolution of.

  10. It is weird. My mother was an only child, as am I, though I know from old photos and a partial genealogy of relatives that her father had connections to some large gatherings of family (except his brother, who went off to California in about 1905 and was not heard from again). Her mother was close with her sister who was childless. My dad’s siblings went very different ways. His sister married a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and they lived many years as missionaries (Evangelical Free Church) to Indian communities in northern Minnesota. Their two sons became doctors and missionaries in Africa for many years. Dad’s brother went into industrial sales, partly working in Europe, and was apparently good at it when he was just hypo-manic (a common pattern for bipolar when it doesn’t fully bloom until middle age). I have no idea what those cousins have done with their lives. So, I suppose I have to go with chosen family.

    The Chinese tradition, deeply rooted as it is in both Confucianism, Taoism, and even older parts of culture is very different, looking both backward to the ancestors and forward to the descendants (to whom one will be an ancestor), with obligations in both directions. There are Loo shops (a kind of perpetual soup stock usually used to cook duck or chicken) that have maintained their pot for a millennium or more, through wars, revolutions, changes of emperors, etc. by the same family in same location.

  11. Wow. Could it be we are twins? My mother was an only child also. I am an only child. Now if you re left handed I will be freaked out! Seriously though, agree about Chinese traditions, hope they are not lost with the embracing of Capitalism (what do you want to bet? Says the jade in me). I think being hypo-manic can work so well with people in some jobs, I’ve seen it do so time and again, giving them the pep they need without the confusion or ultra-mania. Fascinating stories, seriously ever thought about compiling them? You may wonder who would read – given many have passed but you’d be surprised, plus never write based on who will read, but on the urge to relate. Sometimes I think when our stories will die with us, we have an imperative to put them down before that happens, at least that’s what I have been thinking of late. A keeper of lives lived. All worthy, irrespective of extinction or not. Funny coming from smaller families isn’t it? I with no children, will be the ‘last’ which doesn’t put any pressure on me but makes me a little sad, other than not wanting to perpetuate inherited bunions 😉

  12. No, not left handed. As for the Chinese, their embrace of capitalism is tempered by its combination with a flexible version of Communist values giving a focus on community and, in recent decades, a strong concern among the Party managers with social stability. The small (by the standards of that very large population) cohort of the One Child generation may be more of a threat.

    I agree that the writer needs to write what they need to, or must write. Writing for a defined audience is a different kind of job.

    It is impossible to guess what of what is written now will be read in the future. Historians have learned a lot reading the shopping lists and contracts of long dead Babylonians on clay tablets. These digital forms are far more fragile. And, long before the invention of writing, people were painting and carving on the walls of caves and rock shelters, essentially saying, “We were here.” We can’t help it, it’s our nature.

  13. I will probably sound like a eugenist if I say how I really feel about how many children should realistically be born in a world running out of resources. I don’t know the answer there. Truly there doesn’t seem to be one. I remember going to China pre-Tiennamen Square it was a very depressing experience (but one I’m lucky to have had, and glad I did). The cunniform of old taught us a lot, Rosetta stone etc, I think I wanted to be an egyptologist until I really thought about how hot those tombs were going to be 😉

  14. All I’ve ever read or heard about The Valley Of The Kings indicates you were right about that.

    I was thinking about China and the power of deep culture, noting that Bodhidharma brought Buddhism to China and China made it Chinese, and Mao brought Communism and China is doing the same thing to it, as Mao wrote he knew it would. He also wrote poetry in classic style, not at all like the little red book.

    Back to Kindle versus Books, I think children should see many books in their homes, as many as might fit. Everybody should grow up in a library.

  15. We need a tshirt that says ‘everybody should grow up in a library’ – I fear so many do not read but on the positive side, there are many more ‘teen’ books than before and some are so good! I always thought it odd that Janism (sp?) and other sects did less well in India in the end, with the renewal of Hinduism in favor of Buddhism – and why China adopted it over its origin India? But maybe India’s history of multiple Gods and a need to worship an actual diety rather than the concept of life which is essentially a philosophy not a religion or faith, I can understand. Something more familial and tangible than a concept or way of thinking. The Buddha inspires me many times but I see how with every concept humans tend to wring all meaning from it and are left with a shell that doesn’t resemble it. Think of the extremist cults within most faiths.

  16. All the great teachers of the Axial Age, and some later, said “Here is I how I did it. Do that.” Buddha was probably the most explicitly clear about that, but not the only one. Jesus was clear about it too. They also knew the tendency to miss the point and said, “Do not worship me, be like me.” But, worship and deification are so much easier than the work of discipline, critical thinking, and rooting out unconscious assumptions.

    On the difference between Chinese and Indian Buddhism, D.T. Suzuki says a lot to the point in his Essays In Zen Buddhism: First Series. Here’s a link to a pdf of the book [] — the key paragraph is on page 104 and begins, “The Chinese genius was to demonstrate itself in some other way.”

  17. The Christ thing is interesting because on the one hand if you read the Old Test then it’s all about wrath, revenge, a jealous, angry, vain God. No wonder Jews are leaving that faith in droves. Then Christ comes along, inexplicably part of a supposed all seeing God who knows what has happened and what will happen, but despite this omnipitence, he goes through with the sadism of killing his ‘son’ who is also part of him, and also human and not, and then the advent of Christianity which was essentially a Roman PR exercise, and from this the idea of ‘love Jesus accept him as my Son and you will be saved’ which is a bit demanding really (because you can be a truly terrible person your entire life but if you ‘accept’ God at the end, you will go to Heaven, whilst a truly good person who doubts the Bible or the veracity of this story will be in Pergatory or worse their entire post-life) and Jesus talks a good talk – agree with most of what he said – but then reverts back to ‘love me or else’ which isn’t really any better – so the ‘don’t worship me’ thing I don’t agree with, I think they explicitly say ‘do worship me’ but Jesus improves on the angry God of old (same shared God between all three faiths) then you get post-Catholique where some faiths are so hateful they are the polar opposite of Jesus, whilst others are prosperity, again, polar opposite.What gets me though is how can anyone in ‘good faith’ believe this is the will of God if clearly The Bible and everything Jesus preached was the reverse? Very baffling.

  18. I’ve long thought that if I had to design a universe which had to have some sort of afterlife, I would go for the reincarnation model, a process of learning with repeating the lessons until they are mastered and another level reached. The idea that this life is a pass-fail test to be eternally rewarded or punished has never struck me as the policy of a loving God, or even a just one. That is an abusive parent

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