10 Soothing Poems On Getting Older From Writers Who Get It
Do you ever read a poem and realize that you didn’t know how you were feeling until someone else put it in words for you? Us, too. It’s especially comforting to hear from someone who understands exactly what you’re thinking, even if you’re connecting through pages or across time. Below you’ll find ten poems you didn’t know you needed—all about getting older, and all from writers who get it.
Writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and Joy Harjo help us connect with the world around us, while Rupi Kaur and Mary Oliver describe the excitement of growing older. Poets like Shel Silverstein and Jenny Joseph will even make you laugh. You’ll also find a piece by Carl Phillips, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for his latest collection, Then the War. Read on for ten of the best soothing poems on getting older.
1. Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm by Carl Phillips
So that each
is its own, now—each a fallen, blond stillness.
Closer, above them,
the damselflies pass as they would over water,
if the fruit were water,
or as bees would, if they weren’t
somewhere else, had the fruit found
already a point more steep
in rot, as soon it must, if
none shall lift it from the grass whose damp only
softens further those parts where flesh
There are those
whom no amount of patience looks likely
to improve ever, I always said, meaning
gift is random,
here withheld—almost always
as it’s turned out: how your hands clear
easily the wreckage;
how you stand—like a building for a time condemned,
then deemed historic. Yes. You
will be saved.
2. Halleluiah by Mary Oliver
Everyone should be born into this world happy
and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I’m not where I started!
And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
and how miraculously kind some people can be?
And have you too decided that probably nothing important
is ever easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.
Halleluiah, I’m sixty now, and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.
3. Timeless by Rupi Kaur
they convinced me
i only had a few good years left
before i was replaced by a girl younger than me
as though men yield power with age
but women grow into irrelevance
they can keep their lies
for i have just gotten started
i feel as though i just left the womb
my twenties are the warm-up
for what i’m really about to do
wait till you see me in my thirties
now that will be a proper introduction
to the nasty. wild. woman in me.
how can i leave before the party’s started
rehearsals begin at forty
i ripen with age
i do not come with an expiration date
for the main event
curtains up at fifty
let’s begin the show
4. On Aging by Maya Angelou
When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.
5. The Folks Inside by Shel Silverstein
Inside you, boy,
There’s an old man sleepin’,
Dreamin’ waitin’ for his chance.
Inside you, girl,
There’s an old lady dozin’,
Wantin’ to show you a slower dance.
So keep on playin’,
Keep on runnin’,
Keep on jumpin’, til the day
That those old folks
Down inside you
Wake up … and come out and play.
6. Remember by Joy Harjo
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
7. I Sit Beside the Fire and Think by J.R.R. Tolkien
I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.
For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.
8. An Old Story by Tracy K. Smith
We were made to understand it would be
Terrible. Every small want, every niggling urge,
Every hate swollen to a kind of epic wind.
Livid, the land, and ravaged, like a rageful
Dream. The worst in us having taken over
And broken the rest utterly down.
A long age
Passed. When at last we knew how little
Would survive us—how little we had mended
Or built that was not now lost—something
Large and old awoke. And then our singing
Brought on a different manner of weather.
Then animals long believed gone crept down
From trees. We took new stock of one another.
We wept to be reminded of such color.
9. A Lady Who Thinks She Is Thirty by Ogden Nash
Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.
Miranda in Miranda’s sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.
Shining like the morning star,
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda is a-pining.
Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.
Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What’s a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?
Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then—
How old is Spring, Miranda?
10. Warning by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!