Sunday, January 30, 2011

The temporal in poetry

I told Sheila Graham-Smith (see below) that time is the great enemy. What artist doesn't obsess about time?

Here's some good time poetry. These sections are taken from a long poem called "Realm of Ends" that appears in Ann Lauterbach's Or To Begin Again. By the way: If you like a poem, I suggest typing it out. It helps you know it.


Francis turns. He has something to say. He has an
announcement. He says, snow in summer and falls silent.

A single egg in the nest. Francis turns.
It is not metaphysical; it is merely distraction.

Time passes. The nest is empty.
The snow, bountiful. A girl dedicates her last weeks

to a show of force. She writes gracefully about force.
Francis turns. He seems weak and small and without volition.

Thus the bird lands on his head.
Thus there are radiant seconds.

Is it reliable? Not the garden. Not the bed.
The streaming elocution is more or less prosaic.

The bird lifts up onto the bare branch.
The tree, an elm, is dying, almost dead.

Francis is indifferent but the bird, a cardinal,
shines on the barren branch.

Tit tit tittit tit hovers the weary pragmatist.
It is hoped, by Francis and the rest, that she

cannot know heartbreak, not
the melodrama of the nest's margin of error.


All day in the fir trees, night remains.
Time passes. Francis is immobile, bereft.

He has recalled the condition of stone.
He has resumed his incalculable origin.

And so the second comes too quickly,
follows too quickly upon the first.

Others, mobile and incidental and lush,
attest to the perishable variety at large:

shark, polar bear, other political incidents
having little in common with the immobility of Francis.

A fence and an alarm, a cat and a cradle,
these also are not acceptable, not progression.


The day has become abstract; I cannot know it.
It spits and complains as if it were real

but it is only a matter of time.
How, for example, forgetting

becomes opaque.
As if, dark on dark, an inert stone.

Francis is only a sentimental stone.
Francis is impoverished and mute.

Francis is a fiction of the glare, turning
into the Tuscan sun, under the juniper, among flowers.

Doves perch on his head and shit on his sleeves.
This is an example of natural observable fact.

Yet the day is opaque
despite recurring flags in the graveyard

lending their gala strophe to the forgotten;
despite the fantasy of the saint

turning in his soiled robes
under the heavy lemon trees, the ornamental

beds: rose, lavender, creeping thyme.
Along the path the lovers come

through the thrash of sunlit leaves,
the heavenly scents of lemon and rose.

The day is a tide of sensual foreboding
in the salty sweat of their backs

riding on white linen
in a luminous small room

in the taste of cool wine on their swollen lips.
The day, for the lovers, heaves with potential.


  1. Lovely poem, thanks! I like 3. less than the other two though it's still very pretty. Particularly fond of the handling of linebreaks. 1. reminds me structurally of Stevens's "Chaos in motion and not in motion."

  2. You're welcome! My favorite parts are:

    Thus the bird lands on his head.
    Thus there are radiant seconds.


    And so the second comes too quickly,
    follows too quickly upon the first.