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The Gusting Winds

The gusting winds, they blow, it seems, more bleakly this December;
They bite my cheeks and chill my bones and freeze my aging flesh.
As I ascend this windblown hill at sunset, I remember
The former days, when springtime’s breezes wafted warm and fresh.

How brightly shone the sun upon those carefree halcyon days!
How coldly now the pale beams fade before the shades of eve.
How sadly sigh the blades of grass that rustle in the haze—
They whisper soft, like sand grains sifting slowly through a sieve.

The evening falls, and as the shadows darken, I reflect
On things both past and present, and the soon approaching year.
May spring’s return renew in me a will to resurrect
Those healthful habits of the past that kept youth’s vigor near.

I used to run for miles and swim ten laps across a pool
And ride my bike across the open countryside for days.
“Perhaps it’s not too late” I think, “to change before next yule,
To stir myself and overcome my sedentary ways!”

I dream of getting back the strength that energized my frame
Not many moons ago, before things seemed to take a turn;
When with strong limbs, I’d skip like a gazelle or some wild game
Across the hills all day—and still have energy to burn!

My well-toned arms were supple then, I had both brains and brawn,
My limber legs could dance a jig or kick a football high,
No stiffness racked my waking form when I rose up at dawn,
Instead, I rose and stretched my arms and felt like I could fly!

From high atop the hill, I spy a group of lads below
Who chase each other as they kick a ball across a field.
Despite the distance, I can see their faces as they blow
Their breath into the chilly air, with pleasure unconcealed.

Lord, bless them at this time of life, when strength and youth are theirs!
And let the brightness of their smiles drive out the dark and haze,
For life is short, and soon enough, they’ll have a load of cares;
So, help me not to envy them their glad and golden days.

Perhaps I’ll ride my bike again, or swim, or run for miles;
With work, I may well lose some weight, or gain some muscle tone;
But youth comes once, and though its glow our longing heart beguiles,
We must, with grace, accept its passing, when those days are gone.

The wan light in the west declares that day is nearly done;
Likewise, our own declining powers speak of our soon demise;
But faith holds fast the hope that He who, like the rising sun,
Rose from the grave, to endless life will make His own arise!

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Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.


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16 Responses

  1. Paul W Erlandson

    Wow, Martin … thank you!!

    I feel as if this poem was aimed directly at me. This bit:

    “But youth comes once, and though its glow our longing heart beguiles,
    We must, with grace, accept its passing, when those days are gone.”

    Accepting it with grace is what I’ve so far steadfastly refused to do. During the Summer of 2020, I tried my hand at 100m sprints, and I came treacherously close to pulling my hamstrings each time, no matter how much I stretched and warmed up beforehand.

    September 4, 2021, I took a challenge from a friend to traverse a set of “rings” at a local kids’ playground. It caused almost a complete tear of my left biceps. I’m still recovering from that. These events are gradually pointing me in the direction of graceful acceptance.

    Thank God for the hope of the Resurrection, as mentioned in your final stanza!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you for your encouraging feedback, Paul. Your experience of actual and near injuries from attempted physical feats that your body was not yet ready to perform is a salutary reminder to me to “go easy” as I attempt to get back in shape over the coming months. I would like to find a gym with an indoor pool; I think swimming is probably one of the best exercises you can do in your sixties and beyond, since there would seem to be less risk of injury from swimming than from lifting weights, running, etc. At the same time, I agree with you that the only real foundation for hope in the face of our motality is the hope of the resurrection.

      Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie

    Martin, This poem is exquisite in both form and content; an expression of what I would describe as a universal truth of the physical decline that inevitably comes with aging. My attitude towards life may retain a shadow of what was once inherent in my younger days yet there can be no denial that I have accumulated wisdom, maturity, and perspective along with the aches and pains and other ails that accompany my foray into the margins of “old age.” Your poem offers an alternative to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” It embraces grace in how we accept our mortality, how we extend it to those who are now celebrating the zenith of their physical vitality and, of course, the grace of God that, through faith, offers us a hope that lifts us above and beyond despair.

    Somehow, you captured all this and more in tightly-controlled verse. well done! I am now more inspired than ever to live through my increasing debilities with joy and to embrace and accept them without necessarily being grateful or happy about them!

    Reply
    • Martin Rizly

      James, I am so glad that the poem has helped you to feel more inspired to live through increasing debilities with joy. As you put it–something that that hadn’t occurred to me– the thought in the poem is antithetical to that of Dylan Thomas in his famous poem to his dying father; yet how much better it is to exhibit a grace-wrought acceptance of the changes that must take place with age. How much more comforting it is to face our mortality with faith and hope in Christ and the resurrection than to “rage,rage against the dying of the light.”

      Reply
  3. Cheryl Corey

    This reminded me of Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy.” My favorite lines are “For life is short, and soon enough, they’ll have a load of cares; So, help me not to envy them their glad and golden days.”

    Reply
  4. Jeff Eardley

    Martin, this speaks so much for we elderly lovers of the great outdoors. I go for long weekly hikes over the hills of the English Peak District with my rambling friends, two of whom are over 80 and can walk 15 miles with no problem. We are all trying to ward off that fellow with the sickle who will catch up with us all one day. An observation I make is that we are usually descending wind blown hills at sunset. I will be reading this to my friends at our Christmas outing and for that, I thank you for this splendid piece of work.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thanks, Jeff, for your feedback. Who could not be a lover of the great outdoors living in a country as beautiful as England? If I lived near you, I would want to join your company of fellow hikers walking in the hills of the Peak District– how idyllic! You are right that one tends to associate sunset with going down hills, not up them, but the sort of hills I had in mind were the gentle, sloping hillocks near my house in Spain, which take only minutes to climb up and down. You have given me a goal to set for my own walking– “fifteen miles with no problem.”

      Reply
  5. Norma Okun

    We cannot wait to grow old when we are young. When we are no longer young, we wish to be young. Aww that we could do this and that. For this complaining musically I suppose your poem is good. There is no reason to feel what you once did you ought to be doing now. I hope you can enjoy what you can do and be thankful for that.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you , Norma, for your thoughtful observations. I’m sure you are right that we often place unnecessary limitations on ourselves owing to a negative or pessimistic attitude, laziness, and simple failure to take care of our bodies as we ought. We ought to seek to maintain a youthful outlook throughout life, exercise, eat and sleep well– as best we can. At the same time, however, I think there is a fleeting quality to actual youth that is undeniable; thus, it becomes necessary as one reaches late middle age or older to deal with that reality, the growing awareness of life’s brevity and of one’s own mortality, and it is the struggle in dealing with those feelings and working through them with grace and hope that I have tried to express in the poem.

      Reply
  6. C.B. Anderson

    The reason your long-form poems succeed, Martin, is that you don’t run out of things to write about, which is a credit to your imagination and your deep understanding of your subject matter. Accurate meter and good rhymes don’t hurt to enhance the poetic effect, either.

    Reply
  7. Daniel Kemper

    The hugest thing is sometimes the most easily forgotten and so I value this poem highly. What a great reminder of the hope that is to come amid the decay that is in progress.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you, Daniel, for sharing with me your response to the poem. It means a lot to me that you found the poem to be a valuable reminder of things that are indeed hugely important– above all, the one hope that shines in the midst of a world full of “change and decay.”

      Reply

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