The man was translucent, as if he were a veil,
a fabric shadow cast by a bright light
revealing every curve, every imperfection,
every hideous flaw behind his diaphanous mask.
He was an odd old man, a caricature of himself.
Bent and distorted, his stunted skeleton of
frangible bones anchored layers of flab and
muscles, stretched in haphazard fashion.
But beneath that brittle facade, a charismatic
lighthouse beacon drew me in like a boat
in a shark-infested sound seeks safety
from shallow shoals and crumbling reefs.
An infectious laugh and the twinkle in his
venerable eyes surprised me and I opened myself
to listening and hearing and answering.
I heard him share a life of passion and pain.
His stories, like old, dry leather, spoke of
an inflexible and unyielding world, not like my
more malleable experience. But as I listened,
he taught me age can change perspective.
As he told how we grow and calcify, I allowed my
soft and flexible stories to fossilize into stiff
relics of time, trouble, and imponderable pain,
their youthful innocence washed clean by experience.
I continued to listen and, learning of his woes,
cursed a world that could so abuse an old man.
My anger boiled and brewed, its opaque rage
swelling against a world so callous and cold.
Yet, despite living through three wars, witnessing
social upheaval, and losing four wives to avarice
and disease and trickery, he exuded contagious
whimsy and the maturity of hand-made wisdom.
A patina of blemishes bathed his weathered face and
years of war with the sun made his skin a wrinkled crust.
But beneath his crippled carcass, I saw a light shine,
his translucence revealing softness where anger ought to be.
Would that I were looking in a mirror.
My attempt to transform a vignette I wrote several days ago into a poem, in honor of poetry month. The meaning changed rather dramatically and abruptly (from the vignette to the poem).