Unassisted Living

Unassisted Living by [Gustafson, Jim]THE BOOK: “Unassisted Living.”


THE AUTHOR: Jim Gustafson

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing, Boston, MA

SUMMARY: These poems spring from winter in Southwest Florida. In the constant warmth, it is easier it seems for the elderly to deny the truth of life’s closing snow. Some poems drift north to youth and disquieting memories, others return to reflect on nature, the nature of things, and the natural progression of relationship and time.

Jim GustafsonTHE BACK STORY: When I turned sixty-seven years old, I decided to return to graduate school and pursue an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa, which is just 130 miles north of my home in Fort Myers, Florida. Being surrounded by much younger students fanned my smoldering awareness of age. The poems in “Unassisted Living” come from my reflections and observations during the years of my graduate studies.

WHY THIS TITLE?: “Unassisted Living” comes from my ongoing internal battle about the seemingly inevitable decision that so many confront when their activities for daily living become limited and they must find a place where they can be “assisted.” My mother spent her last years and died in such a place. Indeed, that place is just up the road from where I now live. I drive by it every day, wave to her, and contemplate living there when I become a burden to others or can no longer be trusted and safe.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Poetry is a conversation between the reader and the speaker of the poem. I hope readers find this dialogue thoughtful, challenging, and occasionally humorous.

REVIEW COMMENTS: “The work here covers the great swath of a fully lived life, pairing wisdom and nostalgia with a reminder that our desires never diminish as we age. The end result is a book teeming with insight and generosity.” — Steve Kistulentz, Author of The Luckless and Little Black Daydream.”

“Gustafson is distinguished by his discerning eye and his journeying spirit.” — ~Sandra Beasley, author of Count the Waves and I Was the Jukebox.

“With courage and deftness, Gustafson’s muse nobly refuses the tendered lies so often associated with time and aging. These songs of experience remind us that “each moment/is a different stream/never the current.” Quietly outraged gifts, these are. Gifts, indeed.” — Donald Morrill, author of A Waiting Your Impossibilities

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jim Gustafson holds a M. Div. from Garrett Theological Seminary in his home town of Evanston, Illinois and an MFA from the University of Tampa. He is the author of a poetry chapbook, Driving Home, (Aldrich Press, 2013), and a collection of essays, Take Fun Seriously (Limitless Press, 2008), and Unassisted Living (Big Table Publishing, 2017). In previous lives, Jim was a Vice President for CBS Radio, a clergyman, pastoral counselor, bartender, janitor, and drummer. He currently teaches creative writing at Florida Gulf Coast University. Jim and his wife Connie live in Fort Myers, Florida where he reads, writes, and pulls weeds. http://www.jimgustafson.com

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I think poets write because they must. I think, too, that poems arise from pain and struggle. I know when I write, I tend to drift to what is unresolved within. I suspect the unresolved is universal and art in any genre is an effort to speak, if only in a whisper, to that issue.


Unassisted Living

Don’t ever assist my living,

set me out by the road instead.

Let someone who finds something

they can use pick me up,

carry me away.

Don’t ever buy all my clothing

exactly the same. Don’t make white

the color of all my socks,

shorts all navy blue, or shod me

with cheap beige canvas no-lace shoes.

Don’t ever tie a bib around my neck

to feed soft food with a spoon

and mistake my expression

for gratitude.

Don’t ever lift my pants

around my thighs to stuff

them with my diaper

covered ass.

When I can no longer flush

my waste away, freshen your own

air with scented spray.

Don’t ever put me in a shower

chair so you can wash me

with thin, latex-covered hands.

If I cannot stand to soap

myself, let the dirt cells spawn

their crusty layer upon my skin.

Don’t ever suggest I walk

with more than a cane.

Three legs should be plenty

to make one’s way.

When that is insufficient,

roll me like rug to the curb,

where I will wait unassisted,


WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble.RICE: $14.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: jim@jimgustafson.com http://www.jimgustafson.com/

Published by


Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

One thought on “Unassisted Living”

  1. I LOVE the poem, “Unassisted Living.” As I get older I understand more & more just what this poems means. I will buy the book. I’ve shared the poem & where the book may be purchased on my Facebook page. This book & this insight should not go unnoticed. Thank you for sharing this … My best to Mr. Gustafson. He nailed it …


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