artwork for Joanna Cleary's poem A + E Growing Older

A + E Growing Older
Joanna Cleary

I’m going to make an apple turnover for dessert tonight.
A is off searching for his name with only a bagged lunch
and a hat to cover the silver flecks in his hair that gleam
in the sun. I’m inside, inspecting our stove and praying
it’ll hold on a bit longer. We’re not as lucky as we were
in the early years, when the scent of the garden remained
in our minds—when A and I would undress one another
and forget shame. A used to lick me from top to bottom
back before his eyesight began to worsen with each year
and the body was punishment all over again. Nowadays,
he wanders off to sulk whenever the kids phone to tell us
they need money, leaving me to organize the e-transfers
and wonder if we’ll ever have enough to retire. The main
difference between him and me is that I find a comfort
knowing we’re all getting older—even you, dear reader,
with your myopic eyes slanting down on our little lives.
I used to love your gaze upon me when I was an infant
newly made in an adult body (how titillating!), but now
I know I disappoint. Still, A loves me. And I love you;
together, we know what it is to want more. As my eyes
close with cataracts, I’ll want you there, looking to what
was once mine, seeing a garden to which I’ll soon return
with our broken stove and my apple turnover in offering.

Joanna Cleary’s Comments

Like “The Snowman,” this poem attempts to explore the duality of awe and mundanity, as well as how identity, love, and self-actualization are often found in a space where one can live within this sense of duality. I believe a full life means that when one begins to grow old, they can emotionally return to where they began life as children—seeing all stages of life as both a child and an adult.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 60 | Fall/Winter 2022