A Song for Older Life, a poem by Ron Carey

This poem was commissioned for the Bealtaine Festival, Ireland’s national celebration of the arts and creativity as we age

Ron Carey’s poetry collection Distance was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016

Ron Carey’s poetry collection Distance was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016


While not specifically addressing the present political and social upheaval, this poem is set as a counter-balance and fulfils the theme of All Together Now by taking the position of Martin Luther King – “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear” – and celebrates the fact that now we have the time and the knowledge to make a difference. The poem calls to us older (and wiser?) heads to do the things we should always do as human beings, look out for those that need our help, understand the world and our place in it. ron carey

‘O unworn world enrapture me.’
Patrick Kavanagh

Now we know that we are mortal, let us
spend Servitude’s weighty crowns. Now
that we know the sun will rise with or
without us, let us ignore the grey sheets
on the laundry-floor of the sky and go
out into the rain-forgiving world. Now
is the time to touch wild things and praise
innocent animals for their truth. Now
let us teeth and tongue fruits that smack
the lips with surprise; learn the difference
between something rare and something
common and see God’s beauty in both.

Now it is time to remember that we once
were creatures who climbed the cloudy
mountains just to breathe; who grew
beneath the cooling stars and listened
to the tuning notes of created heaven.
Then we held our humanity fast, unaware
of what we had become, observing only
that we were lost. We looked for God
everywhere, then in each other, calling
this the soul and this the life-exalted. Now
that we are wise enough to know, let us
leave the chains we forged in the dust.

Now, let us give love back a hundredfold
to the people who love us and forgiveness
to those who need it. And let us not sit
quiet by friendship’s fire when there are
humans in the East in need of our shelter
and in the West in need of our bread. Now
that we know the world is beautiful, let us
throw away the dark journal of our days
and let the answer to all questions asked
of by the heart be a simple, Yes. Let us leave
the caterpillar’s transitory house and go, out
into the wing-spreading warmth of the Earth.

Ron Carey was born in Limerick and lives in Dublin. His poetry collection Distance was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2016. He has written verse and prose most of his life but only started to write poetry seriously in his sixties while studying for a diploma in creative writing at the Open University. He has been a prize winner and finalist in many international poetry competitions including the Bridport Prize, Lightship International Poetry Prize, Cinnamon Press Poetry Awards, Fish International Poetry Prize, Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Awards, Hugh O’Flaherty Poetry Award, iYeats Poetry Prize and the Wasafiri New Writing Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in New Irish Writing, The Irish Times as well as anthologies and magazines. He was awarded Special Commendation in the Patrick Kavanagh Awards 2015 and received a masters degree in creative writing at the University of South Wales.