Friday, May 31, 2013

David Wagoner: "Old Man, Old Man"

Young men, not knowing what to remember,
Come to this hiding place of the moons and years,
To this Old Man. Old Man, they say, where should we go?
Where did you find what you remember? Was it perched in a tree?
Did it hover deep in the white water? Was it covered over
With dead stalks in the grass? Will we taste it
If our mouths have long lain empty?
Will we feel it between our eyes if we face the wind
All night, and turn the color of earth?
If we lie down in the rain, can we remember sunlight?

He answers, I have become the best and worst I dreamed.
When I move my feet, the ground moves under them.
When I lie down, I fit the earth too well.
Stones long underwater will burst in the fire, but stones
Long in the sun and under the dry night
Will ring when you strike them. Or break in two.
There were always many places to beg for answers:
Now the places themselves have come in close to be told.
I have called even my voice in close to whisper with it:
Every secret is as near as your fingers.
If your heart stutters with pain and hope,
Bend forward over it like a man at a small campfire.

"Old Man, Old Man" by David Wagoner, from Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems. © Illinois Poetry Series, 1999.

Image credit: "Wise Old Man," painting by Andrew Judd (originally color).



  1. Where did this vision of an old man come from.

    1. Are you talking about the art? It's from

  2. Wonderful. Simple while mysterious, subtle while leaving alone.


Thank you for participating respectfully in this blog's community of readers.