Mindful Poetry: “Men at Forty” by Donald Justice

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Death, taxes, and growing up are three of the inescapable things in life.

Becoming an adult and making your own way in the world can be full of both excitement and heartbreak… life post-forties can sometimes take a nostalgic turn.

Donald Justice has a particularly poignant poem about this phenomenon, “Men at Forty.”

Though he wrote it based on his experiences as a man, I think the poem applies to anyone. Closing the door to a part of your life you can’t go back to is a universal experience.

Time can move past us without us ever realizing, and suddenly looking back you may realize that so much has already happened that you’ve missed.

Looking at your past with curiosity, rather than judgement, can help you accept your life for what it is, through mistakes and triumphs, knowing that that everything you have experienced has gotten you to where you are now.

Men at Forty
Donald Justice

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.

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