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The Middle Years

My wife, Mary, sits on the steps

talking politics. She smokes

a Cuban cigar. My students

like her because she’s a good


I shrug, and slip off

with a couple tubes

of paint.

I’ll go hunker down

on a dune and try not

to screw up the Atlantic.

But my students follow me.

They fan out

with their stands.

I scold them, Set up somewhere else.

They ignore me.

All right, go ahead, steal;

it’s okay with me,

I say. But don’t go

as far as Gauguin;

he would have picked

Bonnard’s balls

if they hadn’t

been tied


They think there are nails

waiting for them

in the National Gallery.

So I tell them,

Go home, get a job.

I can’t help you.

You’re mechanics:

all foreplay but no passion.

But they think I’m kidding.

Kids … they always think their future

is better than yours … they’re

like groundskeepers for a cemetery.

It enrages me when Mary

passes out cigars to them.


puff on their cigars,

as dreamy as railroad men.

Their locomotive, they think,

is passing me


“The Middle Years” was previously published in Stirring.

about the author <$author?>

Bob Bradshaw is a programmer living in Redwood City, California. His work has appeared in Slow Trains, Blue Fifth Review, Stirring, Liquid Muse, flashquake and Poetry Niederngasse, among other publications. He plans to win a lottery and sail through early retirement in a hammock. Until then he can be reached at