In the Fullness of Early Aging


Maureen Tolman Flannery


Nearly midnight—when Phil Ochs

will sing about all the things

he won’t be able to do when he’s gone

so, he guesses, he’ll have to do them while he’s here.


But he’s no longer here

so irony buzzes, a winter housefly,

through the pith of his lyric.

We cherish these untangled days


when loving well is all that’s required.

This evening, fresh from storefront theatre,

we are fired up by theatrical innovation--

babies raining from the sky,


a wordy, impertinent fetus

curious about the world he will enter.

Still discussing the play,

we heat up the clam chowder


sit at the butcher-block table

as if at a seaside crab-shack

and turn on the radio for the last hour

of the Midnight Special—


our Saturday night folk ritual.

We talk casually of when one of us

will stride ahead into Unknowing

and which of us is best equipped


to cope with loneliness,

as though we might stave off mortality

by naming it, by weekly references

to its caprice as we blend our voices


with the long-dead folk singer

celebrating the tenuous blessings

of a fragile hold on his guitar

and rhythms of breath and pulse.