He asked his writing teacher

where to begin his life story.

“Wherever you begin is the beginning.”

He began at the end, when he turned eighty,

with a surprise party that wasn’t a surprise

until he got a Visa bill.

He wondered why birthdays must be festive.

Each year a victory celebration, surviving another year.

Retired, he no longer cared about how he looked,

unshaven for days, hanging out in stained sweats

wrestled away from his wife when she tried

to launder them.

I grow old… I grow old…

wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled

His wife was curious when he scrounged

around for a stiffly starched clean white shirt,

clipping hairs in nose and ears in her lit up

magnified mirror used to put on mascara;

neatly dressed and groomed he bolted out the door

and hurried off to class.

He never told her why he liked to look his best.

Smitten by a gracefully aged widow in the group

he longed to sit next to her to get a whiff

of her patchouli-scented perfume.

She had a radiant smile and delicate high cheek bones

reminding him of Claire Bloom in “Limelight.”

We want to be reborn incessantly.

When he returned from class his wife surreptitiously

sniffed his clothes for incriminating clues and searched

in vain for lipstick stains.

As the first rays of sunlight seeped through their bedroom

window she could hear him humming in a hypnogogic reverie

“you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” she tearfully vowed

to confront him as soon as he got out of bed.