A Poem Lost

Karalyn Jobe
Winner of the 2021 Stellanova Osborn Poetry Prize

Every poem written is a poem lost.
My joints, a ticking time bomb,
Counting ever closer to their final arch.

I know I’m young, but I ache like I’m ancient.
If I use my hands now, I just know
The arthritis will win before I’m even forty.

In bed, when my other senses are asleep,
My fingers creak and groan with pain
As I ghost-type words a real page will never meet.

I’m aware now, like I never was before
That every single word I write today
Is one I won’t be able to write when I’m older.

It seems like my mobility is waning every day,
So I can’t imagine the pain that I’ll be feeling
When I’m forty five years old and

Twenty five years deep in a career where
Typing is the most important skill I’ll ever have.
What will I do, then, when I have to retire

Fifteen years sooner than I should,
With hardly half the savings a retired person ought to have,
And I can write no longer?

Who will I be when these fragile, crackling fingers
Can’t even hold a pencil anymore?
The written word has always been my identity.

The question that has plagued me every day,
Every waking hour of my life:
Which sad existence is a better fit for me,

To leave stories untold and hidden in my memories
To save my wretched hands, or to write my heart empty knowing
That every poem written is a poem lost?