On Growing Old
Poem By john tiong chunghoo
only the bayan tree
by the temple seems
to be growing stronger
tougher these forty years
while my legs have loosen
the old cement floor too has
given way to the bayan's roots
that rise to show its steely strength
bayan, the first to herald
our ancestor's friend
ever strong, tenacious,
saviour to barren women
at lonely dawn
for a heaven sent
smoke of their josssticks
angled on crevices,
furls, twirls towards heavens
from the temple door
one witnesses faithfuls'
in the faces of gods, goddesses
painted by smoke
from countless incense and jossticks
faithfuls who despite their age
still manage to kneel
and perform rites easier
on flexible bones
after all these stormy years
growing old to shine
with grandeur and mystery
On Growing Old
Be with me, Beauty, for the fire is dying;
My dog and I are old, too old for roving.
Man, whose young passion sets the spindrift flying,
Is soon too lame to march, too cold for loving.
I take the book and gather to the fire,
Turning old yellow leaves; minute by minute
The clock ticks to my heart. A withered wire,
Moves a thiun ghost of music in the spinet.
I cannot sail your seas, I cannot wander
Your cornland, nor your hill-land, nor your valleys
Ever again, nore share the battle yonder
Where the young knight the broken squadron rallies.
Only stay quiet while my mind remembers
The beauty of fire from the beauty of embers.
Beauty, have pity! for the strong have power,
The rich their wealth, the beautiful their grace,
Summer of man its sunlight and its flower.
Spring-time of man, all April in a face.
Only, as in the jostling in the Strand,
Where the mob thrusts, or loiters, or is loud,
The beggar with the saucer in his hand
Asks only a penny from the passing crowd,
So, from this glittering world with all its fashion,
Its fire, and play of men, its stir, its march,
Let me have wisdom, Beauty, wisdom and passion,
Bread to the soul, rain when the summers parch.
Give me but these, and though the darkness close
Even the night will blossom as the rose.