“At Fifty”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 14 2012 6:00 AM

“At Fifty”

Old man.

Photograph by Thinkstock.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Eric Rawson read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.                        

At fifty: they run a scope up your ass
   and snip out the precocious pretumors.
You bleed a little. It’s a kind of test.

By then you have had minor surgery
   on an elbow or eye, and at least one
pharmaceutical dependency to

remind you, having lost your religion,
   that the body only barely belongs
to you and is easily corrupted.

You find hard patches and soft patches and
   red new patches on your shoulders and scalp.
You can picture your bladder convulsing,

or if you can’t, they’ll show it on a screen.
   The equipment is mostly silent, which
gives a feeling of floating in water.

From now on you’re something between salvage
   and experiment. Everything hurts.
You bleed a little. It’s a kind of test.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Mad About Modi

Why the controversial Indian prime minister drew 19,000 cheering fans to Madison Square Garden.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.