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Men at Forty

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.

And deep in mirrors
They rediscover
The face of the boy as he practices tying
His father’s tie there in secret

And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.


I found this poem to have a tone of gloominess. I think it is easily understood but uses a large amount of imagery. I think the door in the beginning is supposed to be a metaphor, maybe to closing the door on a younger life? …because this poem is about middle age. To me, the most powerful image is the one of the man looking in the mirror and seeing a boy learning how to tie. I think this image really captures what the point of the poem is, which is growing older. Powerful images like this can really separate a poem from be good and being great. This imagery took such a simple topic of ageing and made it complex. I think it is also important to make the point about how he ends the lines and alters the way the reader reads the poetry just from the way he writes each stanza. For example, in the first stanza, when you read it you pause after each line but the whole stanza is one sentence. It’s amazing technique that is used to put emphasis on certain words.

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