A Penguin Looks At Fifty

I’ve heard it all my life

“I can’t believe that happened

Twenty years ago”

Or thirty

Or now, for heavens sake,

Forty years ago

“It seems like just yesterday.”

Fifty years old.

I say the words and know they are true.

The mirror backs me up on that,

But inside there is something


Violently screaming

That it’s lie.

There’s nothing fifty in there.

“It’s not the years,”

I used to say “it’s the miles”

But Lord, Lord

Look at all the miles.

I’ve made my odometer turn over

More times than

I’ve made my grandmother

Turn over in her grave

For one sin after another.

At thirty I wrote of something

That came in the night

And took something of value.

Well, that damn thief has come back

And stolen more than treasure.

I look in the mirror and see a stranger

Who reminds me a lot

Of my father.

I see his eyes and his forehead.

It is not him and surely not me.

Penguins at fifty

Begin to show their age.

But not inside.

For even though there may now

Be a bit of a waddle,

Even if the movement is a little slower.

Inside the fire still burns.

Inside I know I can still do the same

Things I did before.

I just know I can.

Except for that damn thief.

There have been too many long, sleepless nights.

Too many nights in smoky bars.

Engaged in America’s favorite past time

Loneliness in a group.

Lots of dreams,

Lots of women.

Too many women.

Don’t be ridiculous.

There can’t have been too many women.

But wouldn’t it be nice if there had been

Just one more?

The one I could never find

Or maybe the one I let get away.

Oh, but who can even complain about that?

Gosh, look at the joys I have had.

They are still just as real as if they just happened.

Too many women? 

What a joke.

There have sure been some good ones,

Ones I never deserved,

Ones that made some others say

“Must be money”

It wasn’t, but I never really knew what it was

And don’t care.

It got me there.

It got them there, too,

For so many times to treasure.

Penguins at fifty have more than their dreams.

For it is far from over.

That damn thief took much but not all.

He took ones I loved

Ones I miss and will never see again.

He closed my mother’s blue eyes.

He poured my father’s last Schlitz.

He took my brother for his last bicycle ride.

I miss…

I miss…

So much changed but so much the same.

How can I be fifty?

I better go look in the mirror again.


17 July 1999

home – Lake Worth, TX

9:39 PM