Rust red water seeps from the walls.

It comes out between
dirty white tiles that
cling to the surface by only the
faintest memory of
glue or caulking.

At this point,
cleaning could do great
damage, for the whole thing is
held together by
piles of time itself.
This is no dilemma.

It’s what happens when things get old.


Notes and Credits

Photos:  I took these photos in Brazil.  The first is from 1998, a delapidated building in the old quarter of Salvador, Bahia, the capital of the Brazilian colony from its founding in 1549 to 1763 (when the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro).  The second is from 1993, in downtown Belém along the waterfront on the the Bahia de Guarajá at the mouth of the Amazon River.  The façade stood like this for at least five more years, for I know it was that way in 1998.  I can’t recall if this façade was ever torn down or refurbished as the front to a new building.  Memory fails me now (see the poem).

The poem:  I just moved to a new apartment, new to me, in an old building.  We’re dealing with a few old building issues as I try to get settled amid the boxes upon boxes.  My friend Amy calls this a “liminal period,” and she is right.  Everything is up for grabs.  I could throw things away.  I could re-evaluate the value of things and keep them.  I could completely rearrange my material surroundings and invent something different.

I moved myself with four of my friends, all dads to friends of my son.  We moved me on Sunday.  We felt a little older on Monday.  At the same time, I am reading Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters and Erica Wagner’s Ariel’s Gift as I prepare to finish off the next post on Brasília.  In my quiet moments, I can’t help but think in short lines of verse and hear them, over and over, in the silent spaces between my thoughts and actions.

The liminal experience of moving is not fun.  It unearths too much.  Our dust is comfortable, even if we pretend to vacuum it away every week.  Unsettling everything creates a dilemma:  deal with it or shut it away as quickly as possible.  The good thing about creating this posting is that it made me dig through old photographs (I knew exactly the ones I needed, and I knew exactly where the dusty boxes and albums containing them were).  Some old photos aren’t easy to look at.  “Too many lovers,” to quote the title of a song written by my old bandmate and best friend P.H. Fred.  Others are good to find, bringing on moments of reverie that soften the blows of age and loss, reminding one of a life lived well, and pointing forward in hope, for we will continue to live well.

Dedication:  To old people everywhere.  May their wisdom remain with us.


Filed under ageing, body

5 responses to “Old

  1. micehell

    the way you describe moving is, well, very moving. it’s more than just packing up long-forgotten and newly-found belongings… it’s also about finding long-forgotten memories and making newly-found beginnings, too.

    i’m glad you’re settling in there mr TRS. and i hope other areas of your life that may or may not need some sense of foundation find the pavement as well. 🙂

    • Thank you so much mich. It was a rough time the move, as you know, and I was very nervous about posting a poem… but it felt right. and I’m good with the photos now… found an old one of my grandpa (father’s side) that is beginning to generate post ideas in my head…. Cheers and blessing to you!

  2. I have seen a few buildings with the ‘rust red water’ as you so beautifully put it. Despite their dilapidated state there is still something wonderful about them.

    I know all about the highs and lows of moving. It stirs up a lot of things, not just dust. Wishing you many happy times in your new place.

    Oh, and your photos are FAB, by the way!

    • Thanks Selma. The move conjured a lot of things, and getting these photos from so long ago was a gift. Actually, I’d written the poem and then wanted the photos, and I remembered the photos and their exact in a box I packed 10 years ago and haven’t looked into for many years. But the move put it all there. Then it’s fun to scan just play with textures and colors.

  3. killinggame

    This is beautiful.

    I have moved so often that I never felt like the place was “mine”, I never felt settled enough to really personalize my space.

    A year and a half ago I moved and left everything behind. I needed a completely fresh start. Everything except my photos, letters, and things that my Mother saved as I grew up. It takes me forever to unpack as I get absorbed in looking at these memories, always with a new perspective. Oh, and my books because they are treasures to me.

    I am finally in a place that I will never leave in the forseeable future, and I finally feel settled. I finally feel like this is my home, and I can make it “me”. But the old treasures will always remind me of who I was. I have all my great-grandmothers photo albums and journals, starting from 1880. They are precious to me, and I will continue that tradition, following the generations and passing everything along to my daughter.

    I have a poem on my blog, called “When I am old”
    This post reminded me of it.

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