Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Dog, New Tricks
By Swati Ravi Nain
I remember Ammi at forty.
She seemed to me then,
as ancient and unshakeable as a tree.
Her forty was an infinity,
a life so vast
I could not grasp it.
My eleven-year-old imagination
pronounced a brutal verdict.
of done and dusted.
Her glee, desire, innocence,
tucked beneath piles of saris,
and pinned to avoid any unseemliness.
I catalogued the contents of her mind,
with the casual narcissism of a child,
as us, us, us and us.
I demanded she stand unchanging,
reassuringly still as a ladder,
so, I could climb her shoulders to adulthood.
Now forty has come and gone by for me.
And clenched my face in its fist,
and turned my dark eyes back to her.
My mother at forty,
comes back to haunt me as a song,
the notes of which my tone-deaf youth did not hear.
With each new yearning that possesses me,
I feel the unheard echoes of her yearnings then,
stifled beneath the weight of me.
At forty the sap of my bones,
is rich and ripe
and hungry for more.
My feet are planted,
my girth, substantial.
Each day, my playground.
I am gluttonous with learning,
devouring forty-one desires a day.
My mind, a forest unfurling.
And as I gorge on a new world today,
I whisper to her, penance and a prayer,
'Forgive me mother, for I knew not what I did.'

About this poem

I began writing this poem as a meditation on being past forty and privileged to truly learn and love. In the process of writing it though, I discovered the grief I felt for what my mother's forties were like. It turned into an act of excavation.

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Written on September 22, 2022

Submitted by swati.prometheus on September 22, 2022

Modified on March 23, 2023

1:26 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 1,307
Words 290
Stanzas 14
Stanza Lengths 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3

Swati Ravi Nain

Swati Ravi Nain has been writing for advertising for over fifteen years, seven of them as a freelance consultant. She has loved books from the moment she met Huckleberry Finn at seven. Having recently won a BIPOC Scholarship from Gotham Writers Workshop, she is taking the leap toward creative writing with a mix of bug-eyed optimism and quiet panic. Her personal essay, ‘Madhumalti’ has appeared in Unfortunately Literary Journal and her flash fiction story ‘The Devotee’ has won a notable story in Brilliant Flash Fiction. She writes from a sunlit balcony in Goa, India, where she lives with her husband, son, and several increasingly precarious piles of books. more…

All Swati Ravi Nain poems | Swati Ravi Nain Books

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1 Comment
  • IndigoHeart
    Elegant and sophisticated, the poet carefully crafted a piece that is at once subtle yet powerful, nostalgic and rueful, yet simultaneously joyous and full of optimism. A lovely tribute that stays with you. Well done! 
    LikeReply11 months ago


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"Old Dog, New Tricks" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 25 Sep. 2023. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/139915/old-dog,-new-tricks>.

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