{This poem about “pre-middle” age seems to resonate with the times we are inso much slipping away, so much being learned. I wrote the poem back in my 30s, though now I am squarely “middle.”}



If childhood is a cradle of universal arms

and middle age a turning back—needy

or humbly surrendered; if old age the return,

and death a womb of dust, “pre-middle”


is life’s showdown with illusion.

We are discovering, my friends and I,

that we will never be as fearless or brilliant

or big as we thought you would be when


we grew up. We are acquainted with panic.

We know how it feels to betray others

in order to survive. We have faced our bodies’

first shattering, felt marriage plunge


like a canyon in the gut.

Pre-middle is watching the slow and stealthy

burial of our youth in fat and worried skin.

It is realizing our friends do not know us.


It is seeing our flaccid ambitions

as the ego-trips they are. It is watching

history repeat itself at least once, and

ourselves the mistakes of our forebears.


Pre-middle is discovering that the feet

we stand on are not our own.

It is seeing that the ground we stand on

is really nothing but grace.


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