Poetry: “The World’s Oldest Person”

The hands of a woman known to all in the village of Stilo, Italy, as Aunt Concetta. Photo by Raffaele Montepaone <raffaelemontepaone.it>.

The World’s Oldest Person

has died. She attributed her longevity
to divorce and raw eggs,
which she ate daily.
A previous record holder
had no idea why she’d lived so long.
Another credited the Lord; still another
cited getting enough sleep. (They’re primarily
women.) Moisturizer, home cooking,
kindness. Hard work. Expensive lingerie.
A former world’s oldest man claimed
the secret was joy. Minding your own business.
Bowling, fishing, great-great-grandkids.
Many lived for decades alone.
One got her hair done on Tuesdays.
One took a job as a housekeeper at ninety.
Every night she set her table
before eating a plate of pasta.
She was buried with a photograph of her son,
who’d died in infancy. Some had the title
for hours, others for months
or years. They gave interviews, greeted fans.
One declared there was nothing left
to accomplish. Another lamented that
it had gone so fast. Their birth records
were hard to come by, if they even existed.
One wasn’t sure what day she was born,
but her marriage license confirmed the year.
They fought for women’s suffrage,
endured Jim Crow, lost count
of wars. Most passed quickly
and peacefully. The person who lived
to the greatest confirmed age thus far
was a chain-smoker
who quit when she could no longer see
well enough to light a cigarette.
She wanted to go to the moon.
She ate two pounds of chocolate each week.

By Elizabeth Onusko in The Sun, August 2018, p. 23
One of the last remaining residents of the village of Staiti, Caterina smokes more than three packs of cigarettes a day. Photo by Raffaele Montepaone
May your life be long and happy and full of love. 
(And don't smoke - but the chocolate could be a good idea).  
Aloha, Renée  
Poet Elizabeth Onusko Image from <poetryhasvalue.com>

Banner photo – Liberata, who lives in the Italian province of Vibo Valentia, holds a photo of herself as a young woman. Photo by Raffaele Montepaone. From: The Sun, “A Long Life” August 2018, p. 16-18.


About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “Poetry: “The World’s Oldest Person””

  1. Rosita says :

    Nice post 😀 growing up is a must, getting old is a privilege, really. I’m sorry several ppl don’t have the chance to reach this age for whatever reason, but we can make our best to make world a more hospitable place, as future generations may not thrive ‘cause climate changes 💔 that’s make me truly worried.. we need to make ours part, we also need to b PAW’sitive, since world is filled with negative stuff nowadays. Let’s b a change, even if it’s a small one?! Small good acts can change world if taken in a big number 🙏🏼💗
    Hope y’all are good,

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: I agree with your philosophy. We all can act in positive ways wherever we are. I thought I was going to Bali this month, but it doesn’t seem to be happening – so Instagram is put off a bit too. Travel & Instagram are in my future. Hope all is well with you. Aloha, Renée

      • Rosita says :

        Thxs xx I like that u agree with it, and I’ve started living off of this philosophy since I’m fed up with world’s cruelty 😑 and about IG and travels, that’s oki, take ur time 🤗 I suggest urs to write a book about all those trips !
        Love xoxo

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