Mirrors and ghosts

You look at me - Your eyes widen as you take in The beard – full and mature now (White hairs to be found) The hair – short and clippered (The practical choice of middle-age) The skin – more sun-kissed than before (The legacy of years living in a warmer clime) A baby's toy in my hand And food stains on my checkered shirt

I look at you - Floppy Pantene-washed hair Youthful energy in a slender frame Hidden beneath an oversized t-shirt The start of a fluffy exam-period beard Eyes bright with the promise Of the possibilities life may bring

You look closer - In the shadows behind me You see an older man His exact details hazy and indistinct His story yet to be told

I look closer - Behind you I make out the form Of a young boy I still remember (Though not as well as you do)

From 18 to 43 What do I tell you? What do you ask me?

You open your mouth to speak Then stop – hesitant and unsure I smile at you instead, trying to convey That life's twists and turns Are yours to discover But if they bring you to me You will be fine

You smile back Nod And fade away

As the seeds of this poem came to me I remembered a first year undergrad philosophy course I took on “Knowledge and reality”, where one of the seminars discussed a classic thought experiment about the nature of self. An old man remembers the young man he once was who in turn remembers the boy he used to be... but if the old man does not remember the boy, is he still the same person?

The scientist in me thought this was a silly question (I only took that one philosophy class!) but the imagery remains powerful. I guess I could have made the young protagonist in the poem be the 19 year old me who took that philosophy class – but the full quarter of a century difference seemed more satisfying so I threw in the 18 year old me about to take his A-levels instead!

Entry 65 of my participation in the “100 Days to Offload” challenge – find out more and join in!

2021-03-13 #100DaysToOffload #poetry #self

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