At Fifty


This poem was written almost thirteen years ago, on my fiftieth birthday. It was an exceptional experience because it came with such ease and was written in under ten minutes. That is not the usual. It will probably remain one of my very favorite pieces because of the imagery and the smoothness of the flow I found in those few moments.

When I wrote it, I wanted to put as much of me, my experience, into the writing as possible. I was a new teacher, a free-lance writing instructor and I wanted to use things I taught to express this mile-stone of turning fifty. So here you will find Biblical reference holding hands with Mythology and symbolism, a progression of time as well as age, beginning to ending and back again.

I had never written a birthday poem before, but thought hitting fifty might be worth the attempt. One of my very favorite poets is Lucille Clifton. She writes a birthday poem every year. And although I admire that a great deal, never had a similar urge until I awoke that morning and realized I had made it to the half-century mark. Felt I needed to remark on the occasion and so picked up my pen and wrote one of the fastest pieces I have ever written.

I think there is a slow steady progression of flow and elegance to the poem, which is one of the reasons it will remain at the top of my list of favorites. Being a North Wisconsin hillbilly, one must grab and cherish even a brief brush with elegance when given that opportunity. Clifton uses her poetry to celebrate the ordinary common moments of her life. And in this poem, I feel that I have gotten close to that. One of the stanzas is a direct result of an exercise I asked my students to engage in, and then joined them in doing so.

Unlike others, this poem has never been published until now. However, it has been read publicly many times. When I looked at it this morning, I was surprised to find new curves in what I wrote all those years ago. Not new as in different, or completely unfamiliar, but new as in depth and meaning. That, to me, means it is standing the test of time. One note to the reader: the demon offspring in the piece are not my four children. They are the poems and other things I write.

At Fifty

Years of words scrawled across
a felled forest of white paper. Driven
by this constant need to say myself,
to live out loud, capture a moment,
breathe in the colors of its details,
only to exhale them again.

Sometimes think I must be Jeremiah
choking on the desire to quit. Clamp
hands over mouth, lock tight floodgates,
let lungs fill with liquid language, until
I must drown in this rising tide of syllables.

Instead, I am dark Lilith, expelled
from the Tree of Life by the Queen
of Heaven, who builds her bed with
remnants from my living room. Exiled
into wilderness for daring to express
my right to be equal, have given birth
to demon offspring. Wild like their mother,
they sing a siren’s song, heard only in that
moment of half-wakened dreams.

Risen now, my voice, like the sun
casts no shadow at its zenith. Sweeps
darkness from doorways as it moves
from past into future. Gives nurture
where it falls on small growing things,
and upholds wings for this final flight
into snow-covered mountains.

Yes, I am both, fierce scream of eagle
and quiet whimper of a child fussing
toward slumber. At fifty, still face
death, but can still say, “Come,
sit awhile, listen.”

Elizabeth Crawford  4/9/1996 – 1/18/09*

*Life of the poem, not mine.

About 1sojournal

Loves words and language. Dances on paper to her own inner music. Loves to share and keeps several blogs to facilitate that. They can be found here:
This entry was posted in At Fifty and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to At Fifty

  1. rebecca says:

    Wow, Elizabeth, this poem is amazing. And what is even more so is the fact that you wrote in 10 minutes! Yet, the words were there. The words had been created throughout your lifetime and the only thing they were waiting for was the proper time for them to come out. And came out they did. With much facility – because they are words that speak your truth and your life – and beauty. It is a wonderful and bless-full experience when we are conduits to the divine within us. Well done.


  2. 1sojournal says:

    Thank you, Rebecca. Coming from you, that means a great deal. And I would agree, these words had been waiting for a half century to find their way onto the page. Breaking silence isn’t easy, but it is always rewarding and blessed, and can be a spiritual experience and an awakening if allowed. I am simply glad it happened and grateful that I could be a tool that day.

    Maybe I should put up the hillbilly poem next, lol. It would certainly demonstrate a certain diversity, if nothing else.



  3. pieceofpie says:

    what an interesting idea to write a birthday poem each year… a lyrical poem full of moving images… thoughts of jeremiah and lilith, tree of life sprouting in your living room .. a path of light and dark, flying eagles and a voice to be heard…


  4. 1sojournal says:

    I finally wrote another for my sixty-first birthday. But again, it was a sort of accident, not planned or thought about ahead of time. Yet, when I sat to write that morning, realized it was my birthday and decided to try it again. It didn’t come quite as easy, or as quickly as this one, but I like it none the less. Birthday poems feel a bit like a gift from a secret admirer. And in a very real way, they are.



  5. espriurenee says:

    Beautifully done and although I did have a voice I never used it in the way I needed to give me freedom. I am happy for you that you broke free and are using your voice as it is meant
    to be used for it is a gift to be shared.

    Thank you very much Espriurenee. I am sure there are those who don’t see it as a gift, and it took a long time for me to become aware on that level. This particular poem is a celebration of many things, breaking silence being only one of them. It is never too late for that,



  6. pamelasayers says:

    I am not sure how I missed this poem, Elizabeth. It is beautiful. I love the introduction notes as well.


    Pamela, it was posted here long before I became a part of the poetry circuit. It’s obviously a favorite of mine, and I’m glad you found it and like it. That’s always so good to hear, thank you.



  7. This is beautiful! Every time I come here to read your poems, I become more and more one of your top fans! It’s interesting in another poem of yours you talk about holding back your words as you did here –
    ” let lungs fill with liquid language, until
    I must drown in this rising tide of syllables.”
    I’m glad though that you learned to let your words fly – for yourself and your readers!


  8. Misky says:

    Yes, a need to live out loud. Precisely. I really connected with this piece.


  9. annell4 says:

    Really beautiful!


  10. Pingback: Something About An Ongoing Affair | 1sojournal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s