Seniors & Aging

First book of poems by 87-year-old Jim Milstead worth waiting for

At age 87, Jim Milstead of Bellingham has done many things. He served in the Marine Corps, and studied zoology and entomology (insects) at the University of California, Berkeley, where he did research. Ever since he moved to Bellingham in 1992 he has been ardent walker, as well as a regular participant at the weekly peace demonstrations outside the Federal Building.

Milstead is also a poet. Now, in his ninth decade of life, he has done something new — he has a book of his poems published. It’s called “Collage,” the name one of his poems and a good description of the book. “Collage” is memorable, not only for Milstead’s skill as a poet, but for his wide range of topics and styles, from quiet meditations on nature, to sharp social commentary, to clever works of humor.

“I just have great fun writing,” Milstead says, an enjoyment that shines through in his poems. “Collage” sells for $8 at local book outlets.

‘Solitaire’

by Jim Milstead, courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

September arrives.

Deadlines approach.

Hours disappear.

I strive to crystallize their meaning

as a child might seek a lost love

among strangers.

It grows dark.

Nights seem to spin themselves

into the fabric of a dream.

Days shuffle by,

or rush headlong out of control,

a calendar of numbers.

Faces pass without meaning.

Crisp scenes escape, remnants remain.

Clothed in a worn beige coat,

she reaches out. I hold her briefly.

Her silver hair glistens

in the waning afternoon.

We sit sifting softly through our words,

seeking a greater voice,

hands across our table touching,

as if it means more than I dare to mean.

There is a fragile path in her quiet smile

waiting to be explored.

I hear the melody of her voice,

sense the soft textures

that lie hidden beneath her surfaces,

revel in the eternal essence of her

that clings and saturates my vision.

Together at a reading, our symmetry binds us.

Words disappear, her presence so intense

that all else becomes white noise.

I trace her outline in the quiet dark,

the luxury of a final glance,

the soft sound of departing footsteps.

Nothing deafens

like the anguish of good-bye.

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