Jason Roberts: A Poem I Love


Donald Justice, “Men At Forty”

Dear sweet god. This is a poem that renders an entire genre of novels unnecessary. What the hell is it that every meditation-on-middle-age is saying, if not this?

They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something

That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense

Cynthia Ozick once said, “The demands I make on a sentence are the same demands I would make on a line of poetry.” Donald Justice, a notoriously non-prolific poet, reminds us that the opposite can also hold–that just as novels can have poetic effects, poems can have novelistic depths and implications.

This is not just autobiographical; it is omnibiographical. Read this thin, bladelike piece of verse out loud. See if you can’t imagine Updike and Roth and Bellow listening, their hands falling from their keyboards, their own voices drowned by the immensity of those crickets.

Jason Roberts' most recent book, A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler (HarperCollins), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in the San Francisco bay area. More from this author →