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Friday 3 December 2010

The Way Time Passes.

"He likely won't see six," I overheard
the doctor say, when I was five.
I thought he meant o'clock, and so
resolved to stay awake.
Later, when my mother said: "That's it!
It's seven - past your sleep time!"
I was cock-a-hoop.
Only later - some years later - did I realise
what I'd achieved, how
cheating The Great Reaper,
I'd joined the great immortals.

Later still, I thought
I'd slipped time into over-drive
when time was but an ocean
and hardly moved at all,
except within itself.
Its tides and currents,
like so many secret thoughts,
like those that I enjoyed
that no one outside me
could know about.

Next, I can recall
the day I sat and worked it out
that half my life -- exactly half --
had vanished down the Swanny.
So I subtracted from my age,
sixteen, the theory being
that the years from one into the teens
could hardly count. And so,
I had two thirds
remaining in the bag,
as yet unopened.
And so we seek
to slow the pace of time
and make of it a dwindling stream.

Three interviews I went to, and at each
they said how young I looked.
I grew a beard. It worked: I got the job.
I'd suddenly grown older.
Time was then a flash flood in the sun.

Now time's a stream in tumult,
its speed increasing

I have no strategy for that.


Bagman and Butler said...

Whew! I don't have a strategy for that either! Powerful poem. I wonder if carpe diem still works.

Jim Murdoch said...

You are so right, how our perceptions of time change, how, when we were at school, thirty was ancient and it was almost unimaginable that we could live that long. When I wrote Living with the Truth I made Jonathan 53 because that felt old to be then. Now I’m nearly 52 I realise how wrong I was although to be fair Jonathan is prematurely old. I also escaped death when I was young. I got meningitis (the bad kind) and ended up in isolation in hospital with my parents standing outside the window. Three years later my brother got the not-so-bad kind and was in a ward with other kids. I’m sure I knew that what I had might’ve killed me but being dead didn’t have any real meaning for me at that age.

Both my parents died in their mid-seventies and so once I hit 50 I suddenly realised that I was now into the last third of my life most likely. That simple arithmetic calculation did a lot to put my life into perspective.

I like how this poem ends – the last four lines especially – but I’m not sure ‘stream’ is a strong enough word even though we talk about the stream of time. The most powerful line has to be: “Time was then a flash flood in the sun.” – most evocative.

Tabor said...

This poem speaks to me and for me. I have been trying to put into interesting and fresh words this theme which hangs heavily from time to time on all of us elders, but you have captured it so well!

Momo Luna S!gnals said...

This is a strong poem. I love it. Now i'm older i appreciate time more than when i was young. And yes, it flies by sometimes. I whish there was a strategy, but then again maybe i shouldn't.

Have a great weekend David!
Sweet greetz.....

Helen said...

Your post today has me speechless or for blogging purposes, wordless! A hint? I cried.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Marvellous poem. Again the feeling of listening to a fresh, intense narration or parable. And how true the final stanza, we perceive time passing faster and faster growing ourselves older, somebody in the past made the example of a tape in a tape recorder running faster and faster while approaching its end,

"its speed increasing

is then perfect.

Linda Sue said...

Not bad , kiddo, you made it well beyond six! LOVE this poem so much.

Kass said...

None of us has a strategy for that, except to enjoy each other while we can.

Great poem.

Titus said...

Three perfect lines, Dave;

Now time's a stream in tumult,
its speed increasing

And I do shudder a little myself.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

What was that doctor on about?

As to the poem, I like its progression.

David Cranmer said...

Very fine work, Dave. I loved the line "when time was but an ocean" and, of course, the poignant ending.

Dave King said...

Bagman and Butler
I'm pretty sure it does.

Doreen had that form of meningitis in her youth. Had hardly got over that and caught polio. She also tells of parents standing outside the window. I can't remember quite how I felt when I finally realised that I might have died. I don't think it meant then what it means now. Thanks for the comments.

My thanks for that. The poem came about almost by accident. I started out to write a very different poem.

Momo Luna
It 's racing along just now!

Ah, I've just seen how thick I am: I had read "A hint? I cried." as one sentence. Can you believe that?

I like the simile of the tape in the recorder. Thanks for the comment.

Linda Sue
One of my proudest achievements, making it past 6, though I have to say that antibiotics happening along helped no end.

Absolutely! Wise words.

Mmm, it onle occurred to me later, how appropriate it was that I should post that poem just before going off to a funeral.

Thanks. Much appreciated.

Sally said...

I read this the other day and wanted to comment, but could not put words together in any way that seemed meaningful enough.
The poem has stuck with me, playing in the corners of my brain enough that I felt compelled to come back to it... which perhaps says it all..
thank you