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Who took the years? Who stole the time away?
Where did it go? I just don’t understand.
There were so many things that I had planned,
Such clever dialogue I had to say.
Have I been written out of my own play?
The years seemed plentiful as grains of sand—
Most of them, now, have trickled from my hand.
Am I a dog who never had his day?

I know that I was meant for better things,
Yet now the spotlights dim, the music stops.
No one applauds as I step on the stage.
I spent my whole life waiting in the wings—
To find a play with neither cast nor props
Nor any lines, only a blank white page.

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David Whippman is a British poet, now retired after a career in healthcare. Over the years he’s had quite a few poems, articles and short stories published in various magazines.

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27 Responses

  1. kishore babu anugu

    As the youth passes fast, we realize that our dreams and goals were missed and we are past our prime. A beautiful look back of life. A nice poem

    Reply
  2. Sally Cook

    Very evocative, with many doorways left ajar for other poems to enter. I will look forward to seeing them.
    Thank you, David.

    Reply
  3. Jeff Eardley

    David, how true this is. I am reading whilst listening to the great Andrea Bocelli singing, “If only we could turn back time” and thinking of this last year, stolen from us, which has gone by so fast. Let’s hope for better things in the time we all have left.

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks Jeff. Actually the idea for this piece had been with me for a long time before Covid, but I suppose it does seem topical now.

      Reply
  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    Mr. Eardley,
    It looks more and more as if we’re headed in the wrong direction, and that you’ll “grow a long beard” (to quote from a recently suppressed classic) before things get better. We’re doing a good job complaining and warning about the blight on this site, but we (myself included) must also mount stiff resistance in other ways to political and economic pressures in order to regain true health and freedom.

    Reply
  5. Paul Freeman

    Excellent, David. I think in these pandemic days we’re more susceptible to looking at growing old with more negativity, especially since the elderly are more vulnerable.

    Sixty is the new eighty at the moment, but I’m sure we’ll get back to three score years and ten (plus) soon enough.

    If I might be so bold as to make a small suggestion on the last line, David, if ‘but just’ replaces ‘only’, the iambic pentameter is maintained.

    Thanks again for what reads like a genuinely heartfelt piece of fine poetry.

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks Paul. I guess the covid situation does intensify the feeling of time slipping past!

      Your point re the last line is valid. I personally think ‘only’ works, but I admit I’m prone to be, shall we say, elastic in my interpretation of the rules.

      Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    Your poem, David, embodies a universal theme, one that I addressed years ago during a midlife crisis when I realized that I was already well past the middle of my life. Everyone should write one of these From my first book Mortal Soup and the Blue Yonder:

    Another Life

    One life is not enough, not nearly so.
    The gulf between the life that we abide
    And others scarcely dreamt grows steep and wide
    As time moves on and piles of memory grow.

    The hours of youth were free and amply given
    In quantity henceforth forever lacked,
    And facing this inequity in fact
    Is but to note how age and hope are riven.

    Sometimes a world arises in the mind,
    A shadow from a fresh and blinding light;
    But when the sleeper wakens in the night,
    That nether life is difficult to find.

    There is a place to go, a court that looms
    Behind a hidden gate, where second lives
    Endure and all the promise that derives
    From them is kept alive in darkened rooms.

    Go past the pulsing chambers of the heart
    To reach the wilds converging on this portal,
    And enter there a shade beyond the mortal
    To dream the life resigned a world apart.

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks, CB, for your comment and for a well written poem as well.

      Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      CB, you make a good point about accomplishment coming from struggle. I think that in the 60s, there was also that feeling – most of it illusory – that things were really going to change for the better. I stress I am speaking as a Brit. In the UK, the 1950s were in general a dull time. I always get the impression, conversely, that the USA in the 50s was filled with a “can do” attitude. The American star was rising after WW2; the British Empire was fading. So the 60s here seemed to hold out limitless promises – hence an even stronger feeling of anticlimax later.

      Reply
  7. Tonia Kalouria

    You have captured the thoughts and feelings of many of us “older” thespians. Really enjoyed this.

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks Tonia. I think perhaps the feeling of unfulfilled expectation is especially strong in my generation, who reached their teens in the 1960s. Logically, in a way it can’t be justified: we had it much easier than our parents, who went through the Depression and then WW2. But the anticipation of the 60s was bound to leave (for most people) a sense of anticlimax.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        What you’re not taking into account, David, is that the ease of our childhood is precisely what led to unfulfilled expectations and lack of fulfillment in general. Without struggle there is no accomplishment. I accomplished little in the 60s except to go through the usual high school weirdness and, at the end of the decade, to become an expert in the art of self-medication.

  8. Joe Tessitore

    I just passed my seventieth birthday and your poem rings so, so true!

    Reply
  9. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    David, I love this poem, every last word of it. It serves to prove that you most certainly haven’t been written out of your own play, and if you were a dog (you’re most assuredly not) this poem says it is your day… I hope are blessed with many more to come! Bravo! Encore!

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Susan, you’d make me blush, if it were not for my remarkable ability to absorb praise! Seriously, many thanks.

      Reply
      • Mike Bryant

        David, I love your response. It will be added immediately to my arsenal of quips. Now, I just need somebody to say something nice about me. Your poem is spot on.

  10. David Watt

    David, your poem caused me to reflect in precisely the manner intended.

    My boss announced his retirement today after 36 years of public service.
    His reason for deciding to go now is pretty much to have his day before the music begins to fade.

    Thanks for your well written piece.

    Reply
  11. Margaret Coats

    Just how did you manage to make a beautifully written Petrarchan sonnet from cliches? Theme and dominant images come to the fore in line 5, “Have I been written out of my own play?” And then the sestet speeds up the sand running out of the hourglass with five successive (and successful) lines of stage-speak, coming to a close with a blank, white page as the poem and the readers call for more! Very well done, David.

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thank Margaret. I must admit that writing this one did at times feel like bolting together something prefabricated! I think one can get away with using cliches in poetry , perhaps, as one can’t in prose.

      Reply
  12. David Bellemare Gosselin

    Dear David,

    I like this poem. I thought it was very moving. I think what makes it powerful is the grieving quality. Grief is one of the most healing and powerful emotions there is, which is ironic since we associate it with pain and loss. Yet how much more pain and loss for the person who hasn’t yet grieved or figured out that they must let go? How much more life will they lose if they don’t grieve?

    Schubert’s Winterreise cycle is probably one of the most powerful examples of the profound nature of grief. It seems so sad, but at the same time it isn’t just a typical kind of Romantic sadness or despair, it’s a different emotion, and Schubert captures it very well, as do you.

    Thank you.

    Best,

    Dave

    Reply
    • Dave Whippman

      Thanks David, glad you liked the poem. I suppose there is indeed a kind of muted grief in the thought of unfulfilled expectations.

      Reply

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