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There's an old man I know, though not well.
He's bent with age.
And experience.
He stands by a stream where the woods used to be.
His reflection dances where the light meets the water.

The image he sees is transitory,
But he doesn't see himself anymore.
He remembers the smoothness of his skin
And the grace of his limbs,
Though he never stooped to see them then.

The stream was brighter then too.
Its dirty now. It doesn't taste the same.
Before the cars. And the wall.
Before the ground changed.
Before the fence.

He could feel the fence even now,
Rusting deep within him.
The wounds are old but the scars still ache.
When the wind blows.
When the fence moves.

He can feel his body softening,
Losing touch.
Pulling away.
The cold bites harder now,
In the limbs he can still feel.

He can feel himself slipping
Since the ground changed
And the green has gone.
Slowly, the soil washes from his feet
Into the stream.

He's tired.
There will be no leaves this spring.
He closes his eyes,
He can't bear to see.
The soil washes from his feet.

He can feel himself slipping.

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The following comments are for "The Old Man by the Stream"
by Philo

Old Man Winter
It may not work perfectly into the poem you've written, but I coudn't help imagining your old man as Old Man Winter (ice floes turning to spring floods, slipping away in a sudden rush)

I love the way you've layered the impressions of the old man. There's a wonderful, slow quality to your poem which I think suits your subject matter well. There are a few bits I wasn't quite so fond of --

The repetition of "then" between the bottom of your second and the top of your third stanzas.

"could feel, even now" which makes for a tense break -- should it be past or present?

The repetition of "the soil washes from his feet" -- I think your poem has more impact without the second occurrance of this phrase.

Other than that, this poem is a joy to read. What do you mean you're a surface paddler?

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: March 14, 2005 )

Old Man
Hazel, I appreciate your reading and your comments. I hadn't thought of Old Man Winter. My old man by the stream is inspired by a tree I saw that looked like it had seen better times.

I see what you mean in your crit. I wrote this poem in 4 days and I normally suffer over them a bit more, but because I don't write a lot of free verse I wasn't sure what else it needed and I was hoping to get some help with the polish.

As to surface paddler, I dip my head now and again as I've said, just not so deep. And I'm out of my element.


( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: March 14, 2005 )

Philo - I know this man

This is excellent!

I felt so many things reading this. I felt like the old man represented the old people whose friends and loved ones have all died. He lives in a world starkly different than the one he lived in when he was a kid - fishing in that stream, whose years of watching it change, changed him too, until he becomes one with the decaying fence and landscape. I had such rich imagery of his feet in the eroding soil, anxious to be a part of it finally.

I also saw it as a metaforical expression of that voice inside us all that says we are destroying our world a little bit every day, and the whispers of pending doom it creates in us.

But personally, I got this overpowering image of an old man I once knew.

I wish I could remember his name. It didn't seem important at the time with four children at my ankles. But... he used to come once a year to fish in the stream behind my old farm house where he lived as a kid. He was in his nineties at the time and the two and a half hour trip was a major pilgrimage in his antiquated station wagon. His wife and sons would worry when he made the trip. But he did it every year - alone.

Thanks for bringing me back. These are good memories.


( Posted by: FeliciaStone [Member] On: March 17, 2005 )

Old Man we know
FeliciaStone, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I'm excited that this has meant different things to different people and I'm delighted it brought about fond memories of your own. I love how readers bring so much of themselves to what they read and its fun to hear what those things are.

Thanks again. -Philo

( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: March 17, 2005 )

Ha ha!

( Posted by: feliciastone [Member] On: March 17, 2005 )

father tree and sonnet crow
I stopped here with an ulterior motive. Remembered your tribute to the lunar eclipse. Your poetry moved me so-
I have a sonnet (my first, ever) and no comments-
I think I am not well liked here at Lit- I tend to get relegated to cyber-cyber space. But, to be fair, this was on the front page for a day and no one looked. When I edited, I was relagated to limbo. (And I'm glad for the few days to think and edit. I think I may have it right now.)

You won't have to search:

SO... would you mind stopping by to read my sonnet and tell me what you think? It's only 14 lines, so, please...
I appreciate honest critique.
Do you want to know the story now, or after you read it? Let me just say -his buddies called him "Crow".
Thanks in advance. It sucks to put a 'baby' here, and no one responds.
By the way, your 'old man' here, I had pegged for my father, I then saw your comments. A tree! Beautiful!
What is more staid than tree or good father! excellant-
hope you don't mind my bothering you, or how lengthy this became. -thanks Philo


( Posted by: emaks [Member] On: March 22, 2005 )

Great, Philo
I like this piece, but before I go into it, one problem; stanza 3 line 2 "Its dirty now. " might be It's dirty now.. those darn apostrophes.

This poem is what I might expect from a romanticist battling industrialization; crying out for a return to the natural, that which destroys nature signifying death. In fact I read it and think Wordswoth, "Tinturn Abbey" -- "And I am still a lover of nature!" I doubt there's one of us that looks at the quickly disappearing rainforest with any sense of satisfaction-- even those who profit from it. The reality is we're all the Old Man, and the ones who put up the fence, who drive the cars, they're all of us two. They're the ones who want to make sure young boys don't drown in the stream, that life can be easier. But deep inside we are all still wishing that we could stand barefoot in the bright clean stream and drink from it without worries.

( Posted by: shefallssoftly [Member] On: March 23, 2005 )

To the Ladies
My gratitude, thanks for coming to see me.

Elizabeth, regardless of your reasons, I'm glad you took the time to read and comment. In fact, I would be delighted to read your poem. I wouldn't have imagined that anyone would be interested in my opinion specifically. Its sweet that you saw your father in this.

Casey, Thanks for reading. I'am sure you're right about the apostrophe. It'''s not something Im ever sure of. I"ll have to read the Wordsworth poems you mentioned, they don"'t immediatly come to mind.

Who says I/m not a naturalist laying down in front of bulldovers on the weekends? Okay, youre right, I;m not. But I agree completely with your analysis. Thanks for rading so carefully and thinking about this enough to comment so completely. -Philo

( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: March 23, 2005 )

Ernest H.
Thoughts Hemingway caught my attention when I saw this title. And like Hazelfaern thought of Winter, I saw The Old Man and the Sea.

This post is a sign of writing from the depths of one's impressions, when it serves to evoke different strong images.

( Posted by: Teflon [Member] On: April 11, 2005 )

Thanks for reading Teflon, it fun to see another perspective. I think, as I read this poem again, that it will need a re-write at some point. Other than a vague idea about tightening and structure, I'm not sure. -Philo

( Posted by: philo [Member] On: April 15, 2005 )

I liked the parallelism in this. Very good job.

( Posted by: greatsmile [Member] On: June 27, 2005 )

greatsmile on Old Man
Thanks for looking me up greatsmile and I'm glad you liked. As I read this again it occurs that I may be getting old and my reaction is begining to show even though I don't normally worry about those things. Self-analysis is dangerous though and I'm still young so I've talked myself out of it. -Philo

( Posted by: philo [Member] On: June 27, 2005 )


I've read this on three or four different occasions, and have enjoyed it each time. I'm glad you explained the scene that inspired it.

You put yourself into the tree; to see life from its perspective, and observed well what it was and what it had seen; might have felt.

This is a good metaphor for what I feel, getting a bit older, and for what I have seen as my old "territory" back in Ohio gets more and more intruded upon.

I like the dancing reflection and the giving of feeling to the growth of the tree around the strands of the old fence.

You have left the final splash to the imagination. Excellent. What happens after that could be another poem.

~ John

( Posted by: Flonigus [Member] On: July 1, 2005 )

After the splash
Thanks John, its great to hear you've come back and read this more than once. I'm glad you commented. I agree with your analysis, that's where I was going. Never thought of a follow up though. Thanks again. -Philo

( Posted by: philo [Member] On: July 1, 2005 )

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