Tag Archives: Time



That which is of the now, or, power that flows (including money)

People who are hungry and have enough money in their pocket to buy one sandwich and no other money look forward to that sandwich. They value and are scared of it to some degree, for what happens when the money and then the sandwich are gone? But still, overall and right now, they are pleased it’s there (sandwich and money both).

Ben Bradlee lived a good life. It says so on the spine of the book here just out of my reach on the bookshelf. It’s a very large bookshelf. It runs across a whole wall of the parlor. Maybe 500 books, not a precise count, but that won’t be far off. There are a number of bookcases in this house. Some smaller, others bigger, but all full up. Most of these volumes I can put a memory to. Not of the books themselves (although that as well) but of when they were bought or where or why, by whom. I imagine most people can do that.

Ben Bradlee’s book was borrowed and never returned from my mother-in-law. She lived in New Hampshire when I borrowed it from her. For a while when she got sick again she came to live with us, here in this house in Maine. She spent about six months with us, living in an apartment in the barn. Perhaps that book was then in a way no longer borrowed as she was living under the same roof. But then she left and moved to Austin, Texas to live with my wife’s sister, her younger daughter. At that moment, from a moral or legal standpoint, the book was borrowed again. But then after a while we also left Maine behind and bought another house in Austin and then my mother in law died. This happened in the summer that we had come back north for a few weeks and so the book became ours. Technically it’s my wife’s and I’m sure if I bought a legal challenge for specific custody of it I wouldn’t likely win, unless it was part or fell under some wider agreement as regards all the books we own. But still if, for example, my wife and I stay together and she dies before I do then it will be something I could then leave in my own will to anyone I wanted.

When Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, who was born on August 26, 1921, chose his title he must have been somewhere in his early seventies, as the book was published in October of 1995. He lived for a good amount more afterwards, dying 19 years later on October 21, 2014 at 93.

Externally and compared to most of us he had a full life, which is probably one of the markers of it being good. There is something a little smug it seems to me about self-describing your existence as good, but my feelings about this might be cultural. The English feel the Americans are too full of themselves as it is. Brash, which -to one side- is one of my favorite words. Not for its associated meaning, but just the sound and stubby shape which never ends because of the ‘sh’ at the end.

As a child I had a minor speech impediment involving the letter ‘S’ and am perhaps more sensitive to the areas of its deployment than the average person.

Although it was a separate event and happened a few years later, I was also sent to elocution lessons to tidy up my accent which at eleven was thought by my parents (mother, probably) to be too rough or working class. And although class is and was then a central part of the English fabric, I think this experience led me to being highly attuned to the differences, perceived and otherwise, between people and who was good and who was less good.

With regard to Bradlee, and while his life as written about was certainly full of color and famous people he had opinions about, I would find it far more interesting now to read 426 pages about everything that happened to him after he first put his pen down. The last segment. Of course, in a wholly secular way what I would like to read is his unfiltered Afterword. What he made of it all when it was all done. Impossible task and why the obituarists get to do their pale work.

Robards played Bradlee in the movie, but died sooner. I like Robards, but have no idea why, having never met the man. I like Bradlee despite the same shortcoming, although I did see Bradlee interviewed a number of times, so at least can guess at the character he was while playing himself not another.

Getting to the point (or at least outlining an idea or basis to give you something to hang on to or project from), it has always seemed odd or difficult or unfortunate that humans must feel deeply to learn or gain experience and then have enough time for reflection to understand certain things and even then that a large number of the most important things we learn come too late to use ourselves. But we are incapable of helping others. Not because of any unwillingingness on our part, but because of some trait that runs in almost every person; an inability to be told.

One plus one equals one and sometimes a very tiny bit.







In lieu of another

It’s hard to sew being so very slow.
There’s a precision required
that is rarely used in these particular days.
Did my grandmother say the same?
Probably not, for she would have practiced the skill
and not as an art form, but a practical necessity.
The saving of socks and the counting of buttonholes.
Yet in this unraveled sleeve where the cuff
has loosened itself a good three inches round
there are many stitches needed
through and back and over again
to bridge the widening gap.

It is not men alone who no longer sew
or know much of its doing.
It is one of the older active verbs
which has been replaced
by the conglomerate of buying instead.
And it’s true that I caused Mister Claus
to bring me an exact brother
to this simple hooded sweatshirt (blue)
color may vary due to unique drying process
but still, I’m not prepared or ready
to throw away this first version I fell in love with.
Loyalty and sentiment extend beyond dogs and girls.

Problems remain however with the slowness of my inefficiency.
These sutures are clumsy, leaving a ragged scar,
but in the end closure is complete and my sense of simple Zen
by these selfless moments is, if not made anew, at least repaired.

Rain and fire

After many days of sun
here comes its equal opportunity brother
the New England rain

just cold enough
even on these last days of June
to cause consideration of the wood stove

not only as an object of mechanical beauty
but also for its immediate capability
to warm flesh and memory both.

We lived here in the East
before then moving to the West
for reasons of broken hearts

and alcoholism
the requirements of a fresh start
and a change in all the weather.

And it was effective mostly
for it’s a dry heat they have there in Texas
despite the many bars.

But while we are alive again now
we are partially also gone soft.
in ways I wouldn’t alter

Perhaps these are connected states
just as Maine and Austin
will also now for always be.

The bloodstream
filtered only by coffee
is thin and clear these mornings

as I sweep the ashes out
and see the wood of our days
so thankfully rekindled.

November 9, 2014

Funny business, time
lightness and dark.
A Sunday night
and just before twelve
is mostly too late
for writing in the book.
Things to do, sleep to get
calls in the morning.

None of that will matter
in ten minutes on the other side
of Thanksgiving (a few weeks away)
whereas a piece of lost paper
with a forgotten shopping list
will seem full of meaning and worth
let alone the outline of a poem
which freezes a thought,
the dream of a love letter.
Any honest word.

These things that suggest
a real life remembered,
or acknowledged in the moment,
will never be thrown away
but instead be added to the wall
of I was here in which
no future appointments
will be included
whatever time it was
in their prior demanding.

During being fifty three

As I get older I find I have a need to have something to do
not to get things done so much as to be doing something
next or now or soon afterwards and then the day runs out
which allows me to complain to myself about all of them
these days of mine and how I must if I may when I can.

It didn’t used to be like this back when every morning
I would sit on a large cushion on the floor with a coffee
and an oblong newspaper to look at instead of the clock
this was almost thirty years ago as long as a good marriage
and my teeth were unbroken and I had no sense of time.

As a party trick while others were dislocating their shoulders
or singing backwards in Polish I would announce lightly
that I would die at fifty three precisely and without doubt
not thirty or eighty but the middle age we couldn’t imagine
those years of death before its due when life is dull and gone.

Or so it seemed to me then without need to think of a self
that would be consigned as I am to live through this year
said in a kind of rudeness or a joke at another’s expense
which I probably specialized in during those empty days.

There is never any going back but there may still be
some movement forward as if in quiet reproof to him
as though a look across the room not seen but made
for while simply living cannot be any sort of revenge
it is after all and as mentioned something to do next.

Dry water

She’d been beautiful when young.
Beautiful like a piece of land in its natural state.
Unfenced, unfarmed.
He hadn’t known her then, but he’d seen pictures,
and they were more than enough.

The age we are when we die
is the age we are forever until we are forgotten
or everyone who has ever known us
or continues to remember us
also dies.

There are exceptions,
but these are only by a matter of margin.
Shakespeare will disappear.
George Best go west. Judi Dench be released
from the hold of human history.
As will human history itself.
And then history.
At least as we understand it.
The water will dry.
Known sounds fall to silence.

A heron once stood on the side of a man-made lake
in an office park in Itasca, Illinois.
It was a little past three on a Monday afternoon.
October. Sun was out.
He was fishing.
Or doing what men also mainly do
when engaged in the business of hoping to catch fish.

Waiting. He was entirely still.
A matter which made the couple walking
along the path that circles around the lake
take notice of him.
He did not make eye contact.
Would not.
Did not take his eyes off out in front,
the water and the lake.

He was not concerned obviously that they might rush up to him
from behind and throw a sack over his head.
Not tame as such, but not bothered.
Or perhaps he was bothered, at least a bit,
but more than anything and with dinnertime approaching
he did not want to move and thus be seen by the fish
who themselves by the man and woman, the couple,
could not be seen.

A slight risk of capture or attack, of death,
at one end of the sum,
and the specific and certain intention
to kill and eat at the other.

After a minute they moved on,
kept going with their walk.
A little exercise before an early dinner of other animals
(some parts of birds, wings) already killed
and brought previously to this location of their choosing.
A Westin hotel.

Of the heron, which was made and born,
survived this far and efficiently,
nothing else is known or connected to this slight contact
which in itself became for an undetermined amount of time
a memory for the two people who saw it.

I don’t know how long herons last for.
There are many things that are uncertain about them.
It was a good-sized bird.

Now and at home, later, out on the back porch
the man has been distracted by a palmetto bug.
If you ask him at this precise moment
about the heron he saw one afternoon in Itasca, Illinois
he would say that he remembers it.
Quite well.

Although if you don’t bring it up there’s every chance that no one else will
from now until the end of time and, barring one or two coincidences
that could occur but are unlikely to,
he would never think of the heron and that afternoon again.
And thus it wouldn’t be forgotten,
but it wouldn’t be remembered either.

Same with the palmetto bug
for in this instance nothing happens to do with it
within the period that the man is watching.

It waits, it waits, and then scuttles off
with a rapid stop and start motion.
This is probably almost exactly the time
when his wife, the woman, dies upstairs.
He sits there some more.
Wondering only if the bug will get eaten before morning.

In the rest of his future he won’t think to himself
about this twenty minutes or so that is now elapsing
between the palmetto bug leaving,
his wife leaving, his own considerations as to when the palmetto bug
may or may not be permanently leaving
and then the going upstairs
and the finding out that his wife has left.





The Ojibwe name for “Lake Itasca” was Omashkoozo-zaaga’igan (Elk Lake); this was changed to “Itasca”, coined from a combination of the Latin words veritas (“truth”) and caput (“head”), though it is sometimes misinterpreted as “true head.”

In residence

His singular trick
or method
is to let things rot.

He allows or forces
the days to do his work
for him.

And so what you see
is the evidence of patience
wielded like stick or brush.

A dead fish
is left precisely
in one place.

A globe
is put on a table
out in the rain.

And then the time
goes by intent
upon its work.

While the man
(eventually an artist)