Saturday, October 10, 2015

Random Maudlin Barking

Les Vieux (The Old Folks)
Jacques Brel
English lyrics, Mort Schuman

(The city is full of young people, shouting and yelling with pleasure as if for a sports event, but for no reason you know. So you turn to television and see a lower-key series of maudlin images and a song, meant to remind of our own mortality -- only, it doesn't seem quite so maudlin any longer. That this is so is comforting and frightening, in equal measure.)
The old folks don't talk much
And they talk so slowly when they do
They are rich, they are poor, their illusions are gone
They share one heart for two

Their homes all smell of thyme, of old photographs
And an old-fashioned song
Though you may live in town, you live so far away
When you've lived too long

And have they laughed too much, do their dry voices crack
Talking of times gone by
And have they cried too much, a tear or two
Still always seems to cloud the eye

They tremble as they watch the old silver clock
When day is through
It tick-tocks oh so slow, it says, "Yes," it says, "No",
It says, "I'll wait for you"

The old folks dream no more
The books have gone to sleep, the piano's out of tune
The little cat is dead and no more do they sing
On a Sunday afternoon

The old folks move no more, their world's become too small
Their bodies feel like lead
They might look out the window or else sit in a chair
Or else they stay in bed

And if they still go out, arm in arm,
Arm in arm in the morning's chill
It's to have a good cry, to say their last good-bye
To one who's older still

And then they go home to the old silver clock
When day is through
It tick-tocks oh so slow, it says, "Yes," it says, "No",
It says, "I'll wait for you"

The old folks never die
They just put down their heads and go to sleep one day
They hold each other's hand, like children in the dark
But one will get lost anyway

And the other will remain, just sitting in that room
Which makes no sound
It doesn't matter now, the song has died away
And echoes all around

You'll see them when they walk through the sun-filled park
Where children run and play
It hurts too much to smile, it hurts too much
but life goes on for still another day

As they try to escape
the old silver clock
When day is through
It tick-tocks oh so slow; it says, "Yes," it says, "No",
It says, "I'll wait for you"

The old, old silver clock that's hanging on the wall
That waits for us

1 comment:

  1. today my stepmother was moved to her single room in the memory care unit of the nursing section of the old folks home, the same complex of buildings where she once had her own 'independent living' apartment with familiar belongings -

    her once-treasured things are gone, but so is the memory of them and the places she acquired them - who knows if it is good or bad?

    she can still speak, but when i go see her i tell her my name now - she recognizes me as a familiar face, but i doubt that she knows in what way we are related

    i took her daughter to the airport yesterday - she lives in europe now and comes to visit perhaps twice a year - she won't be back until 2016 - hanging unspoken between us was the possibility that perhaps she won't be back at all

    my wheelchair-bound grandpa, world war i veteran, said to me, the last time i saw him in the v.a. nursing home - this was still in the previous millennium - "it takes so long" - i knew what he meant

    i try to cultivate an attitude of gratitude - in the prayer taught by st. fred rogers, in the esquire profile by tom junod


    "thank you, god"


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