For today’s prompt, write a defensive poem. The first thing that springs to my mind is getting defensive about an accusation, which may or may not be true. The next thing I think about might be people or animals defending themselves. Or defense in sports. Or defense in the court room. Or well, there’s a lot to defend in this world.

A few things about me:

  1. I am not young. I am 55 years old, happily married, and am the father of two grown, wonderful children.
  2. I am a compulsive people-watcher.
  3. “You are the strongest type B personality I have ever tested,” said a college professor.

I like people. I watch people everybody. I pay attention to my surroundings, the world, life. I am rarely surprised. One of the interesting things I have observed over the years is very few people look back. I mean eye-to-eye. I am attracted to people who look back at me. I don’t mean physically or sexually but emotionally. I have made acquaintances with a few of these people, and typically these people are also introverts, observers, and people with congruent views of the world. Kindred spirits if you will. I tend not to get close to people, so my study is purely distant and anecdotal.

The unsettling thing I have noticed over the years is nearly everybody who does look back is a child.  Young adult might be a more accurate term, kids in their late teens or early twenties. I have had dates over the years. Coffees. Rummage through book stores. Breakfasts. Lunches. Chats at a bar. Nothing major, nothing intimate, nothing awkward. Just people communicating like people. Male and female. Typically people I’ve worked with, but have also included younger people. I spent an entire lunch hour once with a young woman browsing a local outdoor art festival and finishing with a coffee. We chatted. We enjoyed each other’s company. She is in university, a fellow writer, and we are friends. I did not ask her out; it just happened. I don’t ask young people out for coffees or chats or drinks. Adults, yes; kids, no. Males or females.

And that’s too bad. Old people like me need young people, and young people need older people. It is so refreshing for me to hear young people discuss real issues. It fills me with hope for this planet to see a young woman writing a Virginia Woolf essay at a coffee shop or a young man writing a play for a local theatre company. It thrills me to see young and old mix freely at community events like Art Battles or City Development protests. I’m not going to patronize kids — they need to take their lumps like we did. But wouldn’t they benefit from hanging around us old farts and engaging in meaningful dialogue? Wouldn’t we all benefit?

And then there are the very few who I look back to, the ones who were looking at me, the very few who might be true kindred spirits, the ones we share the love of music with, political leanings with, love of books with, and our social commentary and human empathy sounds remarkable similar. But we’re 30-40 years separated. Someone you might logically really want to get to know is not someone you probably should want to get to know. I’ve only touched on the age gaps, but man, they are hard to jump over.

My poem rolls all my concerns and emotions into a tight ball: we need to get together with our young, kindred spirits, yet it’s frowned upon; we must be hitting on them, dirty old man. It’s best to just stay away and lose.

Young Spirits

Some steps are too big to take, some rights are too wrong
Kindreds will never be perched on the low branches, but humanity
Has forbidden tunes, stuck in its ear