Thomas R Smith

(on learning that the elderly can lose the ability to perspire) 

I praise the days of vigorous work in the sun
that soaks T-shirts dark as noontime shade,
the dripping forehead and eyebrows in the too-
warm meeting room, the hair slicked to the neck,
the rivulet trickling at the edge of the scalp,
the moons of stink in the armpits of suits and
dresses at the July wedding, the summer nights
soppy with humidity after the sun has set,
the basting in our own juices on the beach
before we rise from the spread towel to mingle
our water with the river’s, the effluents
of exercise, the wet shine on the tennis
player’s thigh, the muggy abandon of
the packed dance floor, the sticky seat-back of the car
without air conditioning in August,
the dolphin’s-glide of the lovers’ belly-
to-belly immersion in the salt sea of sex —
all these things the old are known to lose
which we never suspected were treasures,
burned through our youth and prime without knowing
were riches hidden in plain sight, never
imagining they could be used up, so common
and abundant we spent them like water.

Thomas R. Smith‘s most recent book is WINDY DAY AT KABEKONA: NEW AND SELECTED PROSE POEMS (White Pine Press).  He teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and posts poems and essays at