“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.

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Eric Rawson is the author of The Hummingbird Hour.  He teaches at the University of Southern California.