The Revered Old Man Of Letters

More than a celebrity,
He was like a father,
Teaching me things my father never conceived,
Illuminating the past,
Foretelling and forewarning,
Opening my eyes to the moment that is a human life.

He became a celebrity,
Interviewed frequently,
Newspapers, magazines, television,
Events and awards,
Honorary degrees.

He lost the freedom of anonymity
And no longer spent entire days in random thought,
Not much time for self-reflection,
Not much inclination for self-criticism
Now that so many were so admiring.
He had arrived,
And no one near him would dare criticize.

He spent his days repeating,
Reflecting on what he’d already written,
Preparing speeches and presentations,
Anticipating interview questions.

Writing became an afterthought,
Squeezed into shrinking moments of time,
Resting on tried and true templates,

He was still a brilliant man
But now a singer who sang his hit songs
Over and over again,
Compliant with popular demand,
And so his brilliance was etched in stone
And his new writing was old,
Tired and imitative
Of who he had been
When he was not yet bound by the chains of adulation.

Years passed and he became an icon,
Reduced to a pop culture concept,
A reliable source for reporters on deadline
Who needed a celebrity quote,
For talk-show bookers
Desperate for a last-minute guest.

In his emeritus years he proclaimed the future had soured,
The younger generations such a disappointment,
Hypnotized by technology.

“All I need is a pad of paper and a pencil,”
He declared,
Drawing the boundaries of meaning around his generation,
His past,
His youth,
A time when he had embraced the emerging unknown
And put his rapture into words,
When he was still young enough to imagine
Without fear of literary obligations,
Before he became the revered old man of letters.

~ Russ Allison Loar
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