The Old Man - Poem by Frederick Francis
I met a man in no important place.
Experience had now wrinkled his face.
There was something about how he sat with a smile.
I perched and watched him for quite a while.
His weathered hands had worked many a hard day,
Arthritis taken hold, so curled the fingers would stay.
In front of him was folded that days news.
Pages about a world for which he has no use.
He just watched all the people coming and going.
Reading their faces for the emotion showing.
Eventually he spotted me sitting there,
And he must have taken note of my inquisitive stare.
He turned with more speed then I thought he could muster,
And spoke to me so sternly I was all in a fluster.
He said, “Just ask them, those questions that burn.”
“Each wrinkle represents a lesson you could learn.”
I stuttered, then paused, to recapture my tongue.
Fixed in his gaze, I just felt so young.
He must have seen the fear in my eyes.
Or the frown on my face from falling victim to lies.
He just sat there waiting for me to get it together.
It dawned on me now that this man is quite clever.
Then I heard a voice, it was distant, like over a phone.
It took me a moment to realize the voice was my own.
I had started to speak at an alarming pace.
Spitting question after question into his wrinkled face.
For lack of options, to my voice I decided to listen.
And when I heard the questions my eyes started to glisten.
I now hoped and prayed that he had the answer.
To these question inside me that exist like a cancer.
He took a deep breath and flashed a reassuring smile.
Muttered, “I hope you’re comfortable, we’ll be here for a while.”
He said, “I’ll start with the first, always a good place.”
“And I’ll take my time this isn’t a race.”
“You want to know how I made it through.”
He warned that “what worked for me may fail for you.”
“Just wake up each morning and go to sleep every night.”
“And every moment in-between, never give up the fight.”
He went on to explain some experience he had.
Some of the times that were good and a few that were bad.
“As for your next question about these dangerous times,
In my experience there exists only dangerous minds.”
“This has always been the case and it won’t cease.”
“You’re a fool if you think we’ll ever see peace. “
“Dangerous times have always existed in the past,
And to date have no affect on my ability to last.”
“You can’t live in a state where you’re constantly afraid.”
“It is out of this that true tragedy is made.”
“Now you want me to tell you that this world is good.”
“However I’m not going to say it, It’s easy. I could.”
“But your question is flawed, you’re missing the purpose.”
“Everything is good if you look past the surface.”
“So you’re question should ask how this is achieved,
And I believe with that answer you will feel relieved.”
“You get just one life, and it’s of limited time.”
“How you choose to spend it is up to you to define.”
“You can decide how things impact your existence;
Whether to crumble or, continue on with a little persistence.”
At that he stood up and moved across the room.
With a posture and swagger I could only assume
Came from confidence in the knowledge he made it through.
And behind those tired eyes he knows what’s true.
He stopped by my chair and put down a folded paper.
Smiled at me and said “look at that later.”
His presence was astonishing, I had nothing to say.
So he turned on his heels and just walked away.
I clutched the piece of paper like it was the hand of a lover.
Eagerly Anticipating the new answer it would uncover.
I put it in my pocket and tried shifting my attention.
Such a useless attempt it’s barley worth mention.
That night I held the paper, just before bed.
Knowing I couldn’t sleep until I knew what it said.
There was some hesitation in wanting to unfold.
Partly afraid of what I’d be told.
I had built it up so much in my mind.
The feelings I had couldn’t be defined.
I closed my eyes and to the paper took hold.
Slowly and carefully I started to unfold.
I was put at ease with the one simple line,
Four little words: You’ll be just fine.
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