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Middle-Aged Men, Leaning
Bruce Taylor



four movements

They lean on rakes.
It’s late, it is evening
already inside their houses.

The children are gone.
Their wives are on the phone
talking softly to someone else.

This frost, this early Fall
upon their minds, a small
measure of patience and regard

as if the twilight world
in bright papery pieces
diminished so and thus.

They lean on hoes
in Spring the green earth
turned once more beneath them

their eyes full of flowers
their hands full too
of the planting still to do

the weeds and drought awaiting
their pocketful of seed
the water they must carry.

In an early winter dark they lean
on shovels, a graying heart
a last bad rap inside them,

looking upward toward the sky
the yard, the driveway, the car
the street, the world

itself for all they know
buried by the falling snow
even as they gasp to breathe

and re-breathe the visible breath,
like a burst cartoon balloon
of an old imperfect prayer.

In summer, after long mowing,
they lean toward a growing
silence in the plush grasses

in leaves of many greens
in trees of their own colors
where grackle and crow

each to its own shadow
in the dusky reach of branches
gather quietly to stay.

From Pity the World, (© Plain View Press, 2005).
Used with the author's permission.

Bruce Taylor taught Composition, Literature, and Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for 35 years. Now retired, he is the author of eight collections of poetry and editor of eight anthologies. Poet Laureate of Eau Claire, Wisconsin from 2011 - 2015, Bruce lives with his wife, writer Patti See, in Lake Hallie, Wisconsin. Learn more about him at

Post New Comment:
Gary Busha:
Wonderful imagery and craft. I return to this one often. Gary B.
Posted 09/23/2010 05:54 AM
Ginny C.:
I am in love with the middle aged men of this poem. Very lovely work.
Posted 08/26/2010 03:13 PM
Donal Mahoney:
Very nice piece; very nice, indeed. Donal Mahoney
Posted 08/26/2010 09:11 AM

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