What do you want in retirement,
I’m asked over dinner out with friends.
A boisterous kid at another table
goes silent when served gelato
she’s demanded all evening. She fixes
on the treat, carnally absorbed by each mouthful.
That, I answer my friends, eyeing the girl relishing
whatever is served up —
but in her shrinking
sundae, now a gouged
in her bowl, I see
in its captive crouch
what I may have to swallow,
my need for a feral
stomach for fallen
fruit or a rotted
like a bony beast
as that ice cream,
Image: Gelato by Pug Girl, licensed under CC 2.0.
The initial inspiration for the poem came from my 4-year-old granddaughter’s abandon in eating a scoop of gelato. I envied her delight, her in-the-moment focus so total it would take me years of mindfulness meditation to master. I wanted what she had, relishing what was before her, as a general approach to my own life, especially as I approach retirement. Thinking there might be a poem in that, I began writing, but found myself taking the point of view of the ice cream, a captive crouching in a bowl as parts are spooned away, dropped into maw, and forever disappeared. Once I realized I was seeing ice cream as a metaphor for limited time left, I pictured what could be in store for me, and the kind of stomach I would need to swallow it.