Love After 50

Love after 50 doesn’t make the pop charts.
It’s too absurd.
Absurd as ice cubes settling in a glass
when one pours hot coffee over them,
shedding their sharp edges.
Absurd as the day-time ghost
of one’s breath on a cold morning.
Absurd as the smell of soil after a rain—
why should mere dirt outdo all other odors?
Absurd as grinding steel on
a wobbly bench grinder with a corroding belt,
that hair of sparks,
the pleasant way they prickle against the skin.


25 August 2012: Changed title from “Love After 40,” “50” seeming more resonant.

20 Replies to “Love After 50”

  1. So many intense sensations in this short piece: the sense of ice cubes melting against hot coffee on the lips, the sense of cold air in the lungs, the sense of the earth’s smell in the nostrils and that sense I’d forgotten, until your words stirred the memory, of grinder sparks prickling the skin.

    1. Oh good, I’m glad that wasn’t just me! I don’t write love poems very often because it seems as if everything’s already been said, but that can’t possibly be true, can it?

    1. I don’t know about love and marriage, but living in Amish country I can say that I’ve seen plenty of horse-and-carriage combinations, and they never fail to amuse.

    1. Thanks, Rachel. Yes, I do love making iced coffee that way — one of life’s great simple pleasures. And I suppose one of the main reasons I have a few houseplants is so I can get that smell even in the winter, whenever I water them.

  2. Kia ora Dave,
    Until just a few a weeks ago back home in summery Wisconsin I had never poured hot coffee on ice cubes. And after a month I was content to return here to the hills and smell the robust aroma of the musty earth after a winter rain. Not sure what it means but something to do with love. Hope you are well.

    1. Hi Robb. Sounds as if Wisconsin was a corrupting influence on you, then. :)

      Interestingly, the Wikipedia says the word petrichor — “the scent of rain on dry earth” — was coined by two scientists from down under.

      The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature. In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of bacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent; ozone may also be present if there is lightning. In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth.

      Fascinating, eh?

      1. Totally fascinating. There was a thunderstorm while we were in Italy and the smell afterwards was absolutely glorious. It also contained a high percentage of pine resin.

  3. Wonderful. I love the earthy images – dry soil now redolent, worn cubes like glaciers succumbing to dark sea. Even the grinder sparks made me think of a satellite degraded from apogee, reentering the atmosphere.

    Petrichor should be marketed as perfume for those of us in “more resonant” years. Or is only 50 resonant, and subsequent numbers hollow? Perhaps time to follow Simon Doonan’s example and age in French, thus tempting l’amour.

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