The ghosts of youth keep my thin gray hair coarse and thick and brown,

Keep my sagging soft skin tight and smooth over muscle hard

From the long effortless days of work

And nights of love and laughter.

The ghosts play with me: “That reflection’s not you,” they say; 

“You’re not that old man — You’re ready to go cruisin’!”

“Suck in that gut! Straighten up!”

“(Oh, you mean you are straight?  That you did suck it in?)”

The ghosts tantalize and titillate:

“That lovely young thing is really giving you the eye —

She’s showing great restraint in not climbing your bones

right here in the street.”

And I strut and preen.

The ghosts are working overtime.

The ghosts are cruel: our dinners of rare meat and pecan pie are now pap and gruel,

And coffee after four o’clock

Means pissing seven times at night.

The grab bars in the toilet stall have meaning after all.

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