posted in: Aging, Poetry | 0

How we experience time, with poems by Steve Matanle, Diana Anhalt, Jennifer Burd and Sarah Yerkes.
6 minutes


This week, to commemorate the recent change for much of the country from daylight savings time back to standard time, some pieces about time.

Steve Matanle wrote a series of short poems while sitting on his porch every night around three a.m. Here are two of them. First Number XXXV.

5 a.m. The world
like a table at a séance.
The fog
silhouettes the trees,
the sleepwalkers
from their journeys.

And Number XXXIX.

At 6 a.m.
the trees
are dissolving
in the fog
like musicians
falling asleep
on a train.

Two short poems about time from Steve Matanle from his book Nightbook.

Diana Anhalt lived in Mexico for almost 60 years before returning to the United States in 2010. Here, from her book Because There Is No Return, is her poem “Tiempo.”

Return me to the boredom of my Mexican childhood,
to drizzly afternoons spent staring out a window
marking time, hankering for a parade, a crash, clamor
of sirens, conspiracy of stoplights, impossible snow.

Return me to the country that invented the hammock.
Where Tiempo is only a watch brand, a journal, a word
in a song. Where the mantra’s manana. In such a place
who minds the church bells? They ring at random.

Traffic slows to skirt potholes, stray dogs, a charro
on horseback. The sidewalk trumpeter plays taps at 1:00 p.m.
Always unhurried, I opened the window to a flurry of bird-wing,
a canvas of cloudscapes, scent of jacaranda.

Today, impatience grabs me by the wrist, propels me out the door.
My timepiece ticks louder.

“Tiempo” by Diana Anhalt from her book Because There Is No Return.

Next, from Passager Issue 69, Jennifer Burd’s poem “Self Portrait Explaining a Calendar to the Future.” She said the poem was inspired by a fascination with devices for measuring and keeping track of time and how they can be seen as metaphors for our lived lives.

You can make a life with this.
The blank squares here,
those are called “days” –
but they include nights, too.
You can tell because once a week
you can open one of the boxes
and find a moon inside.
These squares can be written on –
you can name them after things
you need or want to do, like
“make Dr. appt.” or “lunch w/ Bob.”
Sometimes you’ll do those things
and other times you’ll look
back at them from another square
wondering what you were thinking.
When the sun comes up again
you move to the next one
like a piece in a board game.
Now and then, a whole row
of blank squares up ahead
will make you smile and sigh.
They can’t be traded or given away
but on a flat hot summer afternoon
you’ll think you’ve gotten
two for one. They aren’t real
days, I hope you see. They’re just
patio bricks with all manner
of weeds growing up in between.
But they’re portable. Days that fit
neatly in your purse or pocket.
You can buy a collection
in one-year, two-year, three-year,
and perpetual. The light I want
to see when I die? Row upon row
of blank pages, laid out side-by-side.

Jennifer Burd’s poem “Self Portrait Explaining a Calendar to the Future.”

Finally, one more poem about time, Section Two of Sarah Yerkes’ poem “Meditations on Time.”

Time is amorphous
drifts hither and yon
like a contrail in the sky

or it is stubborn
marching inexorably
into the unexplored future

often it’s rigid
cannot be bent
from one epoch
into another

spirits in this sphere
and those who have left
can’t make tears in Time’s web
to reach one another

the morning paper tells me
that Einstein was right
gravity does have waves

astonishingly, this means
that we can just now watch
two stars colliding
13,000,000 years ago

Five minutes writing time seems like a day,
Five minutes scrubbing floors can last forever.

Nowhere in books of physics have I read
that time can be elastic. It can act
as holder of a wisp of golden thread
or of a long, uninteresting tract.

That was Section Two of the longer poem “Meditations on Time” by Sarah Yerkes, from her book Days of Blue and Flame.

To buy Steve Matanle’s book Nightbook, Diana Anhalt’s book Because There Is No Return, or Sarah Yerkes’ book Days of Blue and Flame, or to subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to passagerbooks.com. You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.