Crossing Middle Age
Florida poet John Davis Jr. contributes "Crossing Middle Age" and two more powerful poems.
Crossing Middle Age
Think of it like straddling Oak Creek
in your pickup truck: Body and bed
approach on an angle, stretch the span
to avoid getting stuck in bottom sand
thick as cholesterol, binding as contracts.
Don’t stop and bog down – charge with youth,
emerge muddied but eager for wilderness.
Fat-acorn woods wait on the other side:
Thicker-barked, heavy-mossed trees are
no good for climbing, perfect for shade.
First, your older hand must push the shifter.
Let your treads claw the bank and enter
baptism with diesel irreverence, a splash
of tannic waters browned by time and travel,
dried by wisdom’s easier wind, gentler light.
Curled tatters go green in summer rain,
dry to the dusty near-white of bones.
The wanderer knows replenishment seasons
are nearly over. Light’s next warmth
will release him from life’s tough bark,
drift him groundward like a fallen flag.
From city live oaks, the moss beckons him,
waves its ribbons of welcome, of memory:
Tree cleanout days on his grandfather’s farm,
their pole-hooks wrapped in Floridian fur.
Front yard “snowball” fights with his sister
while their mother shouted “Redbugs!” from the porch.
His hypnotized eyes blur with dead daydreams
as the great veils above him undulate.
Pushed by the false breeze of downtown traffic,
the ragged strands sway and summon:
Go back, lost son; go back before so long.
The Men’s Retreat Passes the Old Horse Creek Camp
Ghosts of great-granduncles wave from the porch
at younger kayakers paddling plastic crafts:
orange bananas occupied by thinner men whose
oily browned arms have never known camouflage.
Skinny pastiches of past generations, they fail
to capture the spirit of long-gone hunters and anglers
by wearing pastel boonie hats that shade
delicate ears and eyes from the same sun
that once shone on catfish and whitetails, bluegill and quail.
The uncles wore nothing ironically. They provided
in November drab so these raucous children
could announce in nasal voices their heart rates
to fellow smartwatched suburbanites.
Cabin and bridge pass into less than memories.
The ghosts stop waving, dissipate into Spanish moss
draped over the banks of the tannic strand
where shoreline tracks leave sharp-pointed tales
of unharvested game, uncaught fish.
John Davis Jr. is the author of "The Places That Hold" (Eastover Press, 2021), "Hard Inheritance" (Five Oaks Press, 2016), "Middle Class American Proverb" (Negative Capability Press, 2014) and two other books of poetry. He has received many literary awards, including the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal and the 2021 Sidney Lanier Poetry Prize. He holds an MFA from the University of Tampa. His writings appear in literary journals throughout the South and around the world. He teaches English and literature in the Tampa Bay area.