Coming of Age on my 84th Birthday by George Amabile

Poem title: Coming of age on my 84th birthday

Poet: George Amabile

Poem: Something I should have learned when I was young

enough to take it seriously explodes, slowly

like a zucchini blossom, announcing

another surprise in the laddered shades of aging.


Forget the calendar with its beaches

and snow-tufted cedars. Think instead

of the way music tends to extend the distance

between now, and now again. Time,


a perplexity of stars and planets, deft

conjectures and a down--to-earth

god, incarnate in one line of a poem

grass... the beautiful uncut hair


of graves, distant but close enough

to wake up the Buddhist emptiness I

missed in a lifetime of lectures, paper

futures, main-line entertainments...


Something I already know

too many names for changes

like the flame from a sunset lake

in that moment before the last light


fails, and maybe much too late I’m 

in love with everything that remains

unsaid, unsayable but suddenly heard

in the sound of rain on a slate roof.

End of poem.

Credits and bio: Copyright © George Amabile

Previously published in Smartish Pace, Issue 29, February, 2022.

George Amabile has published his poetry, fiction and non-fiction in the USA, Canada, Europe, England, Wales, South America, Australia and New Zealand in over a hundred anthologies, magazines, journals and periodicals including The New Yorker, The New Yorker Book of Poems, Harper’s, Poetry (Chicago), American Poetry Review, Botteghe Oscure, The Globe and Mail, The Malahat Review, The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse, Saturday Night, Poetry Australia, Sur (Buenos Aires), Poetry Canada Review, and Canadian Literature. He has published twelve books. The Presence of Fire (McClelland & Stewart, 1982), won the CAA National Prize; his long poem, Durée, placed third in the CBC Literary Competition for 1991; “What We Take with Us, Going Away” was shortlisted for the CBC Literary Prize in 2003 and he is the subject of a special issue of Prairie Fire, (Vol. 21, No. 1, May 2000). “Diminuendo” was awarded third prize in the Petra Kenney International Poetry Competition for 2005 and “A Raft of Lilies” won second place in the MAC national poetry contest, “Friends” (2007) ), “Snow Birds, with Twelve Pelicans” took second place and “Design, after Herakleitos” won first prize in the Writers’ Digest International Rhymed Poetry Contest (2013, 2014). “Mind Set” won first place in the Writer’s Digest Unrhymed Poetry Contest (2014). Small Change (Fiction, Libros Libertad, 2011), a long poem, Dancing, with Mirrors (Porcupine’s Quill, 2011) and Martial Music (Signature Editions, 2016), won Bressani awards, and an international crime novel, Operation Stealth Seed (Signature Editions, 2019) won the Michael Van Rooy award for genre fiction.