The Secret of Longevity

By David Starkey

According to Ruby Lee Markham, dead today
in North Carolina at age one hundred
and twelve: Invest as little
in this world as possible. Fake Death out.
Make him think you couldn’t give a care
whether he visits now or tomorrow morning.
Spend the forty-eight years of your retirement
reading, playing cards and solving
crossword puzzles. Watch Jeopardy
every night at six, and follow it
with Wheel of Fortune: Death dislikes routine.
Lose your spouse midway through your life—
he or she will only vex you later. Above all,
if you, too, want to be the world’s
tenth oldest person, don’t have any children.
While the others in the nursing home
suffer one disappointment hard
upon another—sons losing their hair
and jobs, daughters divorcing, grandchildren
gone to drugs—nod pleasantly
at their misfortune. Have a sympathetic aide
shuffle the cards, then follow the strategies
that have served you for a century: Do what you can
to get an Ace on top. Free up columns quickly
for your Kings. Cheat, if you must.

David Starkey served as Santa Barbara’s 2009-2011 Poet Laureate and is Director of the Creative Writing Program at Santa Barbara City College. He is Co-editor and Publisher of Gunpowder Press, as well as the author of eight full-length poetry collections. Also by this poet: Sheltering in Santa Barbara and I Imagine My Great-Great Grandfather on the Illinois and Michigan Canal.