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Personal Best

       1. After watching hilarious videos of kooky animals
in the bosom of my Facebook buddies
there’s that ardent ad about late-life flab,
car alarm going off down the street
& some thoughts posted about “Peak of Life”.

A journalist threw the notion on young Tess who
starred in a local content soap until she was scripted to marry
& die in a motorcycle accident season finale.
She was plucked from celebrity
like a stray grey hair. Her future…

       2. As a kid, to avoid being beaten up as the class brainiac
I deliberately fudged my answers at the final exam.
Miscalculated, relegated the next year to 4Eb.
The principal told my parents I had sadly peaked early
but would find something to do with my adult life, something.

The crooked bones of a footballer I knew beat him down
to the wretched humility of a saint. Now with nothing
he gives so much – his love, his desiccation.

Christine has burnt through university,
won all the prizes.
Angela has the money plus a social conscience
which sits pristinely unused in her drawer,
she’s ready for anything.
Having lived a few more years I know
we come to each our own disaster naked under floodlights.

Then later as veterans we wheel our wounds towards
old friends’ backyards, or down to the river swimming hole
to float deliriously empty as aquatic predation churns on
beneath our laughter & belief.
Perhaps I peaked when I bought my 5th suit.
Certainly had a salary then
though not much else.
Those salesmen of zeniths had promised more.

       3. I don’t think much about summits, I see a range.
Ghastly, glorious peaks & plummets array
both before & forward. We should all be mountaineers,
plant the flags, our lists of wonders...

To have watched someone die.
See a child babble with insight.
Corral the intransigent pains
               then dismiss them to manageable spaces.
Have your defeats as welcome as the wins.
Accept mercy.
Deny mercy & be at peace with that.
Know your comfort zone is a cage, step outside it
               then go back in.
Understand that you will never be asked to sing.
People remember you from 30 years ago,
               forget you from last week.
Know love & fuck it up. Forgive yourself, be forgiven.
Blow on love, how those infinitesimal flames come back.
Give up on the hard work – certainly, most hatreds.
When you’ve stopped stopped learning.
Have people regard your
               hang-ups as eccentricities.
One has enough dignity to dismiss one’s indignities.
Accepted the tiniest baubles.
Know hope as the only engine, run it mercilessly.

Andrew never had much of a job & his retirement is riotous.
He does not waste his days. Regrettably, I still fret;
it is the habit of my blade.
But for us both, the climb.

Les Wicks has toured widely and seen publication in over 350 different magazines, anthologies & newspapers across 25 countries in 13 languages. His 13th book of poetry is Getting By      Not Fitting In (Island, 2016).