Refusing To Be Ghosts
The elderly pass among us
in a blur of gray and white
noticed only when they hold up the line fumbling for change in a plastic purse
or do not know how to swipe the card with the proper side up
or scan the reservation code, or stand on the right of the moving sidewalk.
They are tentative and fragile like children or puppies
but not as cute
so they do not call forth our tenderness.
We wish them out of the way with their shuffling steps and inane questions
their garrulous complaints.
Each day they become more irrelevant
which is why they cling to their houses, faded photos
and a worn-out view of the world.
It is why they annoy those closest to them
with their imperious demands.
They are refusing to become ghosts.
They are saying, We are here watching your progress
but we see them only from the corner of the eye;
their presence barely registers.
They are too much like our own shadows of wistful regret
that accompany us on every journey.
The substance of who we are really
after youth and fashion, position and power are stripped away
and we are immigrants in unwelcoming country
whose customs we do not know
and whose language (which we learned imperfectly as children)
now confounds the tongue.
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