Time Flies

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Time Flies

… bends like a boomerang,
flies too rapidly away,
limps back to the hand.

Endless this shuffle of unmarked
days dropping off the calendar,
extinct so many animals
that exited Noah’s Ark.

Hands stop on the clock.
The pendulum swings:
time and tide stand still,
do not move.

‘As idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean.’

The print in my grandma’s house:
seemingly moving seas,
sails swelled out,
the ship stays firm in its frame.

Our garden fills with birds
and squirrels, light and dark.
Morning ablutions: each day
a twin of the day before.

The TV screen fills up its washbasin:
tired, shadow faces boring us
with endless wit and wisdom.

Time flies:
an albatross around the neck,
an emu, an ostrich, a dodo,
all flightless,
an overweight bumble bee,
too clumsy, too heavy to fly.

Avila 2007a 102

Comment: The top photograph shows the year 1555 marked in standard figures and in glyphs from the Mixtec calendar (Oaxaca, Mexico). … time flies you can’t they fly too fast … This is a conundrum from the General Knowledge Paper in the school leaving exams (1961). Punctuate this sentence: time flies you can’t they fly too fast … Proposed answer: Time flies? You can’t. They fly too fast!”  I seem to believe there were about ten of these on that paper. However, never trust your memory.

The second photograph shows fledgling storks in Avila, Spain, trying to fledge, to fly, to leave their nests. Some will succeed earlier than others. Those who do not manage to fly, who are not brave enough to leave their nests, will sit there. After a while, their parents will not feed them. And then they must fly or starve. Sometimes, time flies. Sometimes, time sits on its hands and the clock hands refuse to move. Think: time enjoying yourself (it just flows by). Think: time in the dentist’s chair with a root canal, time lying prone having an anal biopsy for prostrate cancer, time spent, those everlasting ten minutes, while a cataract is being removed and a new lens is inserted.

Oh yes, time is flexible. Not only is it flexible, it is insistent, inexorable, unstoppable. Those clocks tick on, whether we are awake or asleep. The seconds lull us with their security, the minutes lull us with their monotony, hours lull us with their harmony, days faze us, daze us … hours: each one wounds, the last one kills. Time marches on. We can rewrite the past (revisionism), but we cannot relive it, except in our dreams.

Avila 2007a 150

 Doors close.
We can never go back.

Doing Time

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Doing Time

Time bends like a boomerang,
flies away,
comes flying back to
the thrower’s hand.

Endless this shuffle.
Unmarked days
drop off the calendar.

Hands stop on the clock.
The pendulum
swings back and forth
but nothing else moves.

‘As idle as a painted ship
upon a painted ocean.’

Yet the seas seem to move,
the winds seem to blow,
the sails seem to swell,
while our garden
fills with birds
and squirrels,
light and dark.

Morning ablutions.
Each day is a twin
of the day before.
Like wise each week.

The TV screen fills up
its washbasin of tired
looking faces bore us
with their endless wisdom.

Time hands heavy:
an albatross around the neck,
or an emu, an ostrich,
a flightless dodo,
an overweight bumble bee,
too heavy to fly.

Comment: An interesting article that I read today suggests that the lock down is bending time out of shape and that we need to adapt our minds and our body clocks to a new temporal reality. Seconds hang heavy. Days present the same routine. The routine makes the divisions between each day seem irrelevant. This is what my Spanish friend and teacher, the poet José Hierro, meant when he wrote about his time in jail as a political prisoner after the Spanish Civil War: “El tiempo aquí no tiene sentido” / time in here has no meaning.

A similar effect is noticed by those of us who were imprisoned in boarding schools from an early age. The first day back, we draw a railway train at the beginning of a long track and we number each day from the beginning of term. Then we cross off the days, one by one. Often, before the first week is even over, we forget about counting the days: they are all the same, lookalikes with a rhythmic similarity that sends us to sleep as routine takes over and we sleepwalk through life.

How important is time? How important is it to distinguish Monday from Wednesday, Friday from Thursday, this Saturday from a week on Sunday? It becomes less and less important. The TV chatters on and on. The shows we follow illuminate our days. I turn on the radio at five on Friday for Cross Country Check Up, which airs on Sunday. I go without breakfast and don’t even notice that I haven’t eaten. I make a cup of coffee and it sits there on the table with the cup of tea that I forgot to drink this morning. Each time I take my tablets, I write that fact down so that later in the day, I can check that I have actually taken them. The notes mount up and the bottles of tablets run down. Each mandarin orange has a tiny key and I wind those oranges up so they will go tick-tock as I eat them. My Teddy Bear has an alarm clock between his legs and a flashlight in his ear so that I can tell the time on cloudy nights when I can no longer see the Platonic dance of the rotating stars.

Waste Knot

 

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Waste Knot
(6th Century BC)

finger-nails crack
red sealing wax
liberating gathering
knotted parcel string

broken finger nails
hard scarlet chips
blood flash-frozen
beaded on blade

underground
clawing for clues
damp walled
this cave-walk
distant the exit
thread leading out

reef knots slip knots
sheep-shanks bowlines
bowlines-on-the-bight
tight he tied them
used them
to measure distance
to distance him from doom

behind him
the bull head
boisterous
bellowing him on