Yesterday


In life there are times when you take pause to reflect on what has been and what is to come. No doubt you have all experienced something similar. One of those times for me was my final year at secondary school. It was a time that really marked the end of childhood and ahead of us lay all the uncertainty and potential and pitfalls of being an adult. I started to look at older people with other eyes – they were once young like me. What had they felt? What had they hoped? Did they find at least some of their dreams? I realised that what I see and who they are or once were are so remote from each other. What if we fail to leave behind those traits that prevent us from being able to be fully ourselves? What if we miss opportunities to reach out? This is a life I imagined:

Yesterday

Yesterday it was – it seems –
When you lived in hopes and loved in dreams.
You were proud and young, so strong,
And on your lips a fervent song
Vowed you would defy the wind
And have no need of anything.
For you, life’s web was not yet spun,
You scorned to trust in anyone.
That stubborn gleam in marble eyes
To cloak some feeling you despised
Was but a mask to hide your fear,
Lest love and sorrow venture near.
So alone you stood, but despite your ways
Someone lingered with tender gaze,
Who saw deeper than others could,
Beyond the mask, and understood.

And now you stare with listless eyes
That long ago lost their disguise.
All she once said, she spoke in truth
When you chose that path, long since, in youth.
By all you meet, you are despised,
They look on you with different eyes
That do not see the hunger there
Or remember the gaze of one who cared.
All they can see is a bent old man
With sharpened tongue and shaking hand.
Gone is the proud, bold lad, so strong,
Forgotten the tune of his victory song.
And now you wander in his stead, afraid,
In the dark, lonely prison your fear has made.

(1978)

© Cate Kimberley and Word and Affect, 2012.

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2 thoughts on “Yesterday

    1. To tell the truth, it speaks to me even today – I am still pleased with the result. Still, if I’d written it today, it would probably be in free verse – not because I don’t like rhyme and rhythm, but because rhythmic, rhyming poems are always at greater risk of sounding childish or forced if you lose control of what you are doing. When you have just written a poem, it is so hard to tell whether or not it seems trite and laboured.

      As for the content, it still conveys what I think and feel about the theme. When I am travelling on the train or the bus and I look at people, particularly older people, I try to see THEM, who they might be, or who they might feel they are. Sadly, we become more and more invisible as we grow older. I’d like more people to SEE and to acknowledge, even if it is just a fleeting smile.

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