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l HIS MAN­NER OF LIV­ING IN OLD AGE

from the Span­ish of Bal­tasar del Alcázar (15301606)

You wish, Señor, to know how I
–after hav­ing lived so long
that I’m no longer fit or strong
am liv­ing life and get­ting by.

I will inform you right away,
because it’s not a lengthy tale
and I would please you with­out fail,
and cer­tainly with­out delay.

Every day­break, on the dot,
when sun­beams make their first approach,
I’m served an egg that’s always poached
and always soft and always hot.

Then two mod­est swigs of what
I call “Elixir Most Divine,“
the Lord Him­self served up as wine
in morning’s first com­mu­nion cup.

Later, when my glass is blessed
by south­ern sun­light, and its sheen
results from being in between
the yield­ing east and the wait­ing west,

they give me, baked up per­fectly,
a del­i­cate yet ample bird,
along with a sip, two sips, a third,
of liquor –for longevity.

Then as the evening star goes down,
plung­ing back into the ocean,
giv­ing up by that swift motion
local king­dom and renown,

they bring me yet more food to eat,
tostadas cooked in sug­ared wine
that briefly makes me feel quite fine
and makes my flag­ging heart­beat beat.

Then they come and close my door
so I can fall asleep and dream
that I am not the man I seem
but rather who I was before.

Until, again, the sun goes up,
and they inform me how I slept,
and I inform them I’ll accept
Divine Elixir in my cup.

This is how a house is old:
It starts to fall. To make it stop,
I lean it up against a prop,
delay what can­not be con­trolled.

And all is vain, all arti­fice.
The props I use to keep me hale
will all too soon, I real­ize, fail,
and flat­ten out the edi­fice.


(orig­i­nally pub­lished in Redac­tions, Issue 2)