Two Poems by Nolo Segundo

A Passing Glance

The other day
as I turned the corner
onto my quiet street

I saw a woman so perfect,
she snatched my breath away
as she waited to cross the road.

It was like seeing a movie star
or a beauty queen close up–
my heart ached a bit, I confess,
when I thought, once, a long time
ago, I might have had a chance….

But now I’m just an old man
driving an old car to an old house.
I drove slowly and could see
her gracefully crossing the street
in my rear-view mirror, much
like a dream fading quickly away …
suddenly, from somewhere far
beyond my mind, I realized
the truth of what I saw: that
it was all just stupid illusion–
she was young and beautiful,
I, old and lame, but those were
just markers on the wheel of time.

The wheel would turn,
my body would die, hers would age,
no longer enrapturing men—in truth
she was already an old woman which
I could not see, nor could I see the
sweet child still playing within her.

When there are no more days left,
our souls will be free of the wheel,
and all the world’s illusions will
seem as distant, fading dreams.

An Old Poet’s Walk Through an Old Graveyard

He always liked to walk among the dead—
for him it was a secret pleasure to imagine
the lives of once breathing, thinking beings.
He would stop at each tombstone, curious
perhaps more than reverent, for he had long
known the body was just a set of clothes
the soul wears in a world where appearances
matter more it seems than what lay inside…

The old man liked to compare his years to
those chalked on each stone, continually
amazed that so many had died with fewer
years on their belts, so to speak—not
that he thought his 74 winters was a lot:
yet seen backwards in time, all the summers
and all the snows and all the fallings of dried
out leaves dying dressed in color like kings,
all those memories wouldn’t fill a large
basket in that living library called memory.

There was a newish-looking gravestone with
one of those weather-resistant photos of a
handsome young man who died in his 24th
year—the old man always wondered how
the young die– by a rare illness, or suicide,
or was he doing something he should not
have been doing, and karma took notice?

In the years practicing his little lauded hobby
the old poet found old graveyards to be best,
for old graveyards have markers of lives that
turned to dust a long, long time ago: 100, 200
years for some– but for the old poet it was as
though they had died yesterday, because they
were new to him, and his mind’s eye could see
them all living life large again in their own slice
of time, in their own worlds, with beauty and
pain, with loss and joy, with grace and fear….

There were so many folks to visit: each one
whose little stone house he stopped by he
introduced himself to, said hello, wished
them well, and wondered about what sort
of life the woman who died at 36 had lead,
or the really old man of 98 with the funny,
old fashioned name—did he regret missing
the century mark, the old poet wondered.

Some graves he did not like to see, for
they were the graves of babes, who
left the world less than a year after
they had entered it with such promise–
some died within weeks or months,
a few died the day they were born–
all spoke in stone of hearts broken,
of hope stolen, of love taken away….

Nolo Segundo, pen name of L. J. Carber, only became a widely published poet in his mid-70’s in over 130 literary journals in the U.S., Canada, England, Romania, Scotland, Portugal, Sweden, India, Hong Kong, Turkey, and three trade book collections: The Enormity of  Existence [2020], Of Ether and Earth [2021] and Soul Songs [2022]. These titles and much of his work reflect the awareness he’s had for over 50 years since having an NDE whilst almost drowning in a Vermont river: that he has, or rather, IS a consciousness that predates birth and survives death, what poets once called a soul. Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, he’s a retired teacher [America, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia] who has been married to a smart and beautiful Taiwanese woman for 43 years.

“The Walking Wounded” by Nolo Segundo

I see us everywhere anymore,
at the supermarket or the mall,
moving slowly, often cane-less
(old folks can be vain too) along
a sidewalk like lost zombies, and
of course every time I visit one
of the plethora of doctors I rely
upon to keep my rusting body
and creaking heart working….

Why did I not see old people
when I was young?
They must have been there,
in my world of swiftness and
sex, of sprawling on a beach or
dancing under the boardwalk
or driving fast enough to
challenge death itself—but
when I saw old people—and it
seemed rare back then—it was
like watching a scene from an
old black-and-white movie,
not quite real, even quaint—
I liked old people and I loved
my Nana and Pop-pop, but only
now in my 8th decade do I know
how much they had to put up with
in living a long life, how time has
a tendency to whittle away your
strength and confidence and grace,
shrinking your bones, drying out
your joints, slowing your brain
and poking holes–oh, so many
holes in your memory….

I am not as fond of old people
now I am one—it is the young
I now see fondly—
but they can’t see me….

Nolo Segundo, pen name of retired teacher L. J. Carber, 74, became a published poet in his 8th decade with work in over 70 online / in print literary magazines in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Portugal, Romania, and India. In 2020, a trade publisher released a book-length collection titled The Enormity Of Existence and, in 2021, a second book titled Of Ether And Earth. A 2022 nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Segundo is currently working on a yet-to-be-titled third collection of poetry.

“Breathe Close to Me” by Nolo Segundo

Breathe close to me.
Let not your head droop
Nor your face grimace
In fierce grief, for when
I must leave, all will not
Leave with me, I promise.

The memories we made
Together will sit safely
Inside your mind’s nest.
I’ll leave the photos too—
I can’t take them with me,
So you’ll have the proof
We were young once,
Both pretty and foolish,
Drawn together like
Two bees put in a jar,
Buzzing around each other
Until their disparate sound
Becomes a kind of music.

The photos and memories
Can take you back to all
The places we loved in
Italy and France and that
Windblown prehistoric
Southern beach where
Our hearts first linked
In tandem as flesh merged
And the monk-like sun set
Slowly, silently o’er that
Endless and holy ocean.

Yet they lie, those photos
And remembrances of our
Youth and middle years,
For no canvas or brain
Can seize our love, the
Living thing it is, unseen
But tangible as a hand,
Vulnerable yet enduring
Past anger, illness and
Even death, because time
Cannot diminish this
Being born between us.

“Breathe Close to Me” first appeared in Dual Coast Magazine

Nolo Segundo, pen name of retired teacher L. J. Carber, 74, became a published poet in his 8th decade with work in 47 online / in print literary magazines in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Portugal, Romania, and India; in 2020, a trade publisher released a book-length collection titled The Enormity Of Existence, and in 2021, a second book titled Of Ether And Earth. His themes are the not so brave new world of aging; that inscrutable mystery we trivialize as ‘love’; and the awareness he’s had for 50 years since having an NDE [near-death experience] while almost drowning in a Vermont river that he is sharing a long dream with a myriad of other dreamers, and that he has probably dreamt such dreams many times before.