When you are forty
you will smile graciously
on another first date
you will have good posture
and impeccable table manners
nibble arugula like a well-nourished rabbit
and measure each bite.

You will still eat roast chicken
at one am, hunched over
the kitchen sink like a wild beast
feasting
stripping the meat from the bone
with your carnivore teeth
inner scavenger, slipping.

You will learn to walk gracefully
you will wear high heels
to the board room, or
special occasions
only
dance barefoot
solo
in the living room
in front of the silent, judgmental ficus
your tree pose, reflective
and effortless.

You'll choose public words
wisely
still spout irreverent poetry,
occasionally
at inappropriate times
unsolicited
in the midst of a party, perhaps

where attendees
will simply assume
you are drunk.
You will let them.
You are not drunk -
but sometimes
you’ll wish you were.

When walking home alone
you will often recite
your favorite song lyrics
out loud
and passersby will believe
you have lost your mind, entirely
you’ll think it’s funny

And, maybe that’s crazy -
or maybe
it’s strategic forcefield
deflecting
unwanted eye contact
and West Oakland’s frequent muggings.

It’s probably both.

You might still imagine yourself
as a rockstar - but
you'll only sing in the shower.
You'll look at your line-less face
in the foggy mirror
and swear you will start using sunscreen
tomorrow -
then forget.

Your home will be organized perfectly,
but you’ll lose your voice
for no good reason.
Your bones will ache
even in milder seasons.
In winter, you’ll consider getting a cat
to keep you company, instead
find a new fur coat.

Your best friends
will have babies.
You will dream
of giving them candy
then handing them back, all hopped up
to go home and watch Netflix documentaries
and, for once
sleep peacefully.

It will not happen.

You will find yourself
lying, often
prone on a pristine beach
while weathering waves of dysphasia.
Your face will be an unsettled seascape
of honest dimple and confused brow

the tide of contentment
always turning.
Each day,
your mind will waver.

You'll tell yourself
to give up
on writing.
You’ll hear yourself
refuse.

You'll think back nostalgically
to your days of waiting tables.
You’ll remember the hard ache of shinbones
less than the trim waist, or the tips
or the ease

At this age,
you’ll be unsure
if your life
is courageous anthem
to living one’s dream
or merely an endless catcall
to unheeding sacrifice

the answer
is more gray hair
and contrast.
Your perspective
will never be
black or white

Welcome to the soft plight
of middle age.