A Short Treatise on Time
“There are days when the fear of death illuminates everything.”
I’m weary of bemoaning so many lost
as if we ever had any choice other than a one-way
ticket with a time-stamp securely in place,
like those issued for certain train journeys
in Europe: use it by Sunday afternoon
or forfeit the ride. Or when you buy a quart of milk
and it sours sitting on its ass in your refrigerator
because you forgot all about it, off doing other things
instead of eating breakfast. Of course it’s an unfair deal
and you would have hired a high-priced lawyer
to negotiate the fine print,
but the gods never consulted you
before forwarding your contractual obligations.
Now that death has switched positions
from the distant dot at the horizon
creeping up in the rear-view mirror
to hovering around the face you shave
every morning, you find yourself often
stranded on the autobahn of memory,
drunk on nostalgia’s exit ramp,
which is not a good place to be; it’s a dangerous drug
that ironically promotes forgetfulness
paving over potholes from the past.
Try remembering this instead: you didn’t understand
much less appreciate
half of what you did with your youth;
and you certainly wouldn’t have bothered
to watch rain fill the still surfaces of a dark pond
with dozens of perfect circles.
Flesh is but part of what we desire,
wandering among fellow husbands and lonely hearts
in search of less hostile company
to duplicate the girlfriend simulacrum
purchased for forty minutes, like time on a parking meter.
I know the fact that I find
so little offense in how we’ve spent the past hour
is enough for some to feel seriously offended:
admiring innocuously variable parts of female anatomy,
the genuine athleticism that enables
a brilliant landing from atop greased pole
wearing seven-inch stiletto platform soles.
After all these times why is there still
such secrecy? Omerta! my friend keeps telling me
sotto voce, like we’re planning to rob a bank
or kidnap one of the girls.
You can almost taste the fecund smells in this place
as I sip at my twenty dollar beer
and notice my buddy has disappeared
behind a black curtain in the back,
while into his empty chair slides this buttery soft blond,
a pastel Renoir nude, fifteen pounds overweight,
her right hand’s red nail extensions
digging into my thigh, she whispers deep into my ear,
Don’t get too comfortable, dear.
I’d just opened a window
to let in another glorious May day
midway through a conversation
with Anthony Clifton about how many more
credits would be required for him to graduate
next May, when Kiera Tambara interrupted,
minutes after a shower, her chestnut hair
still a damp tango, wearing a tight purple
sundress without any straps that announced
she was already halfway to a summer tan.
She handed me her take-home final,
sighed, that’s the last paper or examination
I will ever write for the rest of my life,
twirled a blithe 180, and vanished from sight
leaving my office smelling like a candy shop.
Anthony continued to plod the road
towards graduation, when I suggested
we ought to give pause. When a spring tornado
descends on Kansas or Oklahoma
what do you think the people in those places say
once they realize it has gone away
leaving them alive another day?
Mr. Clifton lifted his worried head,
Perhaps I can take out another loan?