Written on the Eve of My 50th Birthday
(A slow, meaningful, early morning poem)
by Anthony Costello

after Gregory Corso

I am 49 Years Old.
I look my age. My hair is greying.
There is the emergence of jowls.
Blood vessels map the sides of my nose.
Have I always thought my nose big?
My lips have pretty much remained the same.
My eyes always surprise me. But then eyes
In everyone improve with age.
49 and divorced. No children. Is there time?
A girlfriend died and there my baby died.
I don’t act the fool no more — so I have few friends.
What happened to the old Anthony they say.
They don’t like it when I talk about body dysmorphia and dying.
They can all go to Glastonbury.
I have travelled half the world. Met thousands of people.
Most of them were good. Some of them were not.
I cried last year for the first time.
Imagine another 49 years?
I don’t want to cry this birthday.
I want to be an intellectual man on stage
Giving a lecture on literature.
And a leather chair at home.
Another year in which I did not lie.
3 years now and I have not lied
I have actually stopped lying! Well, I lie sometimes
And I feel shameless. I owe people money
But it’s easy to forget something like that.
49 years old and 3 self-published books of poetry.
The world owes me nothing and yet I think it should.
I have had a crazy 49 years.
‘And if it wasn’t up to me, none of it.
No choice of two roads; if there were,
I don’t doubt I’d have chosen both.’
I like to think fate had it I tipped the tin.
The answer lies in this immodest declaration:
I am a good example of soul. A priest
Once told me ‘The People are The Saints’.
I love poetry because it makes me love
myself and others more . . . it gives me life.
Of all the dreams that die in me
This one ‘burns like the sun’;
It might not make every day bearable
Or help me with people
Or improve my behaviour toward society
‘But it does tell me my soul has a shadow.’

IMAGE: “50 Candles” by Elizabeth Gadd, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anthony Costello’s poems have appeared most recently in Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Shop, Orbis, English Chicago Review, and Acumen. The poems of Alain-Fournier, a collaboration with Anita Marsh and Anthony Howell, will be published by Anvil in 2015. The Mask, his first collection of poems, will be published in Fall 2014 by Lapwing Publications, Belfast.