The Old Man Drew the Line

By Carl Rakosi 1903–2004 Carl Rakosi
The old man
                  drew the line
for his son,
                  the executive:
“I don’t want you spending money on me!
(not as long as there are fathers)”,
the line ageless
                         as the independence of time.   
Musters tears
                     and overflows
the inner ear,
                     yet does not matter.
It can not cure frailty.

I seek him
                who will seek me out   
and will believe
                         what I do not believe
(that is my frailty).
                                 “Sit down here with us,”
he says,
            “You don’t have to impress anyone.   
Here is my hand.
                         Your age is of no significance.”
      I move closer to his mouth   
and look into his eyes.
                                    I do not avert mine,
there is no reason to,
                                  or retreat   
into a kindly smile.

Ah, companero,
                      you were born
on the wrong day
                         when God was paradoxical.   
You’ll have to
                      find yourself an old dog.

Carl Rakosi, “The Old Man Drew the Line” from The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 1986). Used with the permission of Marilyn J. Kane.

Source: The Collected Poems of Carl Rakosi (National Poetry Foundation, 1986)

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Poet Carl Rakosi 1903–2004

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Subjects Living, Family & Ancestors, Growing Old, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carl  Rakosi


The son of German Jewish parents, Carl Rakosi was born in Berlin in 1903, moving soon to Hungary following his parents’ separation in 1904. Immigrating with his father and stepmother to Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1910, he eventually graduated from the University of Wisconsin (where he edited the literary magazine) and later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. Rakosi’s involvement in the . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Family & Ancestors, Growing Old, Relationships

SCHOOL / PERIOD Objectivist

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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