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The Stages of Man, 2021
Tom Barlow


Bud, 82, in hospice finds his routine
comforting, with the ice cream on
request and hand massages.
Between morphine naps, he has
plenty of time for a final review of
his 32,000 days. He judges he would
repeat 25,000 or so. His life overall
he grades as a B, maybe a B minus,
mostly for that marital reboot and
a career in car sales, when he could
have been a con man and enjoyed
more respect.

Out of work again, 51-year-old Ted
sleeps until 10 a.m. and regrets waking
to a flood of empty hours. The acres of
bedspread he hiked across all night
were no treat, either. In his dreams,
he often finds treasure, but some
personal shortcoming always keeps
him from bringing it home. Last night,
for example, he found his mother
weighed too much to carry.

†Nellie at 13 barely has time
to keep current on TikTok
yet her parents insist on stealing
hours every day for bullcrap
like SAT prep and flute lessons
and even organizing her closet.
She knows where everything is,
so what's the big freaking deal?
She for sure doesn't want her
mother poking around in thereó
in her closet, she's 21.

Parker at 9 months is exhausted
by the surprises. Food suddenly
appears, grandparents appear,
mother disappears, mother appears,
he is abandoned in the bedroom
again, he wakes, father appears,
food appears, a load appears in
his diapers and no one appears
until he shrilly announces his
surprise. He is bathed, dried,
dressed as a little Harley rider. He
has no idea what to expect next.

© by Tom Barlow.
Used with the authorís permission.

Tom Barlow is a writer of poetry, short stories, and novels. A resident of Columbus, Ohio, his work has appeared in a variety of anthologies and journals. Tom claims his attention deficit disorder keeps his pen “whirling like a merry-go-round” with poems like these being flung off as he desperately tries to “convince the carny to bring the ride to a halt.” Learn more about Tom at



Post New Comment:
Wilda Morris:
I especially enjoyed the last stanza!
Posted 05/17/2021 08:30 PM
This is so good. I laughed out loud. Also the merry-go-round metaphor - made me think of that wild climax in Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train.
Posted 05/15/2021 03:43 PM
Lori Levy:
Like the humor and the insights.
Posted 05/15/2021 02:13 PM
Thank you for a skillful perspectives of the progressive human condition, with just enough humor to keep it interesting.
Posted 05/15/2021 10:55 AM
Good stuff, this!!!
Posted 05/15/2021 10:39 AM
Love it! Thank you for sharing this.
Posted 05/15/2021 10:33 AM
Wonderfully ambitious poem that pretty much pulls it all off. I love how things suddenly appear and disappear in the nine-year-olds world. Id never thought of that reality.
Posted 05/15/2021 06:19 AM
Laughed out loud at this Tom. Why not go all the way and do a Seven Stages of Man la Shakespeare? Gratitude.
Posted 05/15/2021 05:54 AM

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