Joe Cottonwood | If you grow old, it is your own fault

“If you grow old, it is your own fault,”
I say to Terry as we climb
the mountain behind his cabin.
Terry is wearing a device that transmits his heartbeat
by cell phone to doctors at Stanford.
Terry has a flutter, nothing serious, probably.
Terry has a great heart, actually,
something serious, warm and wise.

We ascend this hill on Tuesdays every week
discussing poetry and plumbing, our twin passions:
the gathering of mountain water funneled into pipes,
delivered to homes,
the ordering of words funneled into pages
delivered nowhere, sadly.

We discuss friends fallen or falling,
the arc of marriages, parenthood, oddball relationships,
each a story and a puzzlement,
webs woven of love and rage.
That, and motorcycles, we talk,
pacifist veterans who walk still seeking sense
of an incomprehensible war that shaped our lives.
Objectors, conscientious, we realized too late,
not an easy path but better than following orders.
We walked away from war.
He, the Air Force; I, the draft.
Branded dishonorable.
So we hike, hearts pounding,
the simple friendship of two old men
seeking the hilltop
again and again.

 

Cottonwood 2017_croppedJoe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. Nights, he writes. His most recent book is 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses. He lives with his high school sweetheart in a house he built in La Honda, California. This is his third contribution of poetry to The MOON.

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