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Poetry Moment: 'What the Old Want', by Steven Deutsch

This is poetry moment on WPSU – a weekly program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Your host is poet and author Marjorie Maddox, a 2023 Monson Arts Fellow, author of 20 books, and professor of English and creative writing at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.

Welcome to Poetry Moment.

December—a month of celebrations: Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. There’s even National Short Girl Appreciation Day, National Twin Day, and National Ugly Sweater Day. With opportunities galore to celebrate and—for some—to shop, Steven Deutsch asks the important question of what some of us really want. In today’s poem, “What the Old Want,” he shares his answer.

After growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Steven Deutsch settled in State College with his wife Karen. He was at Penn State for “about 200 years,” teaching thousands of students and studying heart valves, mechanical hearts, and drag reduction. Since retirement, Steve has concentrated on his first loves—playing cards for high stakes and reading and writing poetry. Poetry editor of Centered Magazine and poet-in-residence at the Bellefonte Art Museum, he has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. His book Brooklyn won the 2022 Sinclair Poetry Prize from Evening Street Press. He also has published four additional collections from Kelsay Books: Perhaps You Can; Persistence of Memory; Going, Going, Gone; and Slipping Away.

In today’s poem, Steven Deutsch reminds us of that the best gifts don’t arrive wrapped in fancy paper topped with a bow.

Here's —

“What the Old Want” by Steven Deutsch

- - -  
Not much—
and family
I suppose—
for short visits
involving meals
at restaurants
with tablecloths,
or something sumptuous
simmered for hours
over a low flame.

How about a week
without a visit
to a doctor
or a single
medical test.
or CAT scan,
or even
a tube of blood
with my name
in magic marker.

is in free fall.
Like riding
an elevator
held by a single
strand of steel
down from
the 93rd floor.
Bring kindness.

And, when all
else fails,
a recliner—
well worn
in all the right
A coffee
straight up
and the book
I loved best when
I was young.

“What the Old Want" was originally published in The Bluebird Word.

Listen for Poetry Moment with Marjorie Maddox Mondays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on WPSU. You can more episodes at

Our theme music is by Eric Ian Farmer.

Marjorie Maddox is the host of WPSU's Poetry Moment for the 2023-24 season. She has been a professor of English and creative writing since 1990 at the Lock Haven campus of Commonwealth University.