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Literature, and in this instance, poetry, holds a mirror to life; thus the great themes of life become the great themes of poems. Here the distinguished American poet John Haines addresses — and celebrates through the affirmation of poetry — our preoccupation with aging and mortality.

Young Man

I seemed always standing

before a door

to which I had no key,

although I knew it hid behind it

a gift for me.

Until one day I closed

my eyes a moment, stretched

then looked once more.

And not surprised, I did not mind it

when the hinges creaked

and, smiling, Death

held out his hands to me.


Reprinted from ABZ: A Poetry Magazine, No. 1, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright 2006, by John Haines, whose most recent book of poetry is Of Your Passage, O Summer, Limberlost Press, 2004. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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