“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.

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

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM What Happens When You Serve McDonald’s to Food Snobs and Tell Them It’s Organic
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 4:36 PM Vampire Porn Mindgeek is a cautionary tale of consolidating production and distribution in a single, monopolistic owner.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.