A number of years ago I reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since high school and learned two very important things: first, you don’t fully appreciate the book until you’ve gotten some distance from high school, and second, the book is (among other things) about Nick glancing back at his life from the no-longer-a-youth age of thirty. Call up the text and do a search for the word ‘thirty’ and see how that number and age keeps popping up in the text. I was a few months shy of my own thirtieth birthday when I reread it and felt one of those first a-ha! moments that comes when a dormant seed finally breaks through.
I was moved at the time to put together booklet based on Fitzgerald’s text, a somewhat moody and morose meditation on turning thirty that I had planned to give to younger friends once they reached that age. Fortunately I thought better of it, and over time I have revisited the passage because I think F. Scott had one of those a-ha! moments himself that helped him write a book that has stood the test of time.
Now, a few days shy of my own mid-century mark, I find myself filled with the urge to take Nick’s thoughts and carry them forward a couple of decades.
the portentous road of
stretches before us
exulting and laughing
like the foreign clamor on the
sidewalk or the tumult overhead,
we are content to let all tragic arguments
with the city lights behind.
the promise of loneliness,
a thinning list of friends,
brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.
too wise to carry well-forgotten
dreams from age to age.
as we pass over that dark bridge
lazily against our
the formidable stroke of
fifty dies away
with a reassuring pressure
from an unseen hand.
we drive on
through our cooling twilight.
It really reads a lot darker than I feel, recognizing also that there is no way I could have written or conceived this adaptation at thirty. Fifty is not boats against the current being beaten back, it’s cruising smoothly through the night. Ah, the wisdom of age.
So it’s Poetry Friday out there, the first one of December and the fifth-to-last one for the year. Carol’s Corner has the roundup this week. I’m sure there are more cheery poems to be found there. Not that there’s anything wrong with serious poems. Okay, I’ll be quiet now.