“Every once in a while,” he says
and the screeching in my head
drowns out what follows. I know
what he means of course, that is
the easy part, but the gulf between
meaning and saying is so broad
I can stop and count the traffic
of ideas floating by, each seeking
its own purchase, each finding none.
It could be worse, I know, he
could have said “each and every
once in a while, and he does that
as well, though not in a while,”
but even the once was enough.
I notice he is gone, and I wonder
how much life flowed by
while I was otherwise engaged.
Once upon a time
is the oddest of expressions,
for nothing is upon time,
this one, or any other.
And can we be certain
what we think once was
is committed to a memory,
which is fallible
in the best of times.
or more precisely, in the
best of time, for time
cannot be plural, though it
is inherently evanescent
and is gone as we watch.
I suspect that I am not alone in wondering
if there is a corner of literary hell set aside
for those who foist clichés on the world
and at the head of that table should sit
the fellow who first said “time marches on.”
Even Einstein realized that time is relative,
and as one who served in the military
I can assure you that time does not march,
does not follow a neat, tidy cadence,
and all to often doesn’t know where it is going.
Time does many things, it can meander
like an early morning walk along the shore,
it can rush forward like the youth
discovering what he is sure is love,
it can even plod, when the pain is growing
and the doctor is ever so slow to respond.
Oh, and sitting next to our marching friend
I nominate the fool who thought that time
might actually fly, maybe hell will be fun for him.
She is fond of saying
that time is on our side
although we both know
that time does not take sides,
is incapable of action,
is passive in passage.
It is something of which
we may never have enough
but we are certain
no one has more than we
in this moment. She
cannot imagine running out
of time, I know that
I will, but won’t know
when it finally happens.
There are days when
nothing less than a full blown
cliche will suffice, and any
attempt at brevity will result
in an utter and total failure
and wit will mourn it soul.
You might as well spit in the wind,
because you simply cannot
swim against that tide,
and it and time
will never wait for you.
Those are the days when
the pen loses its might,
and night arrives full throttle
before you are willing
to contemplate the moon,
and see if it is truly blue.
My mother, the goddess of cliches,
was overly fond of repeating that
“There’s a place for everything, and
everything should be in its place.”
I must admit that, in addition to hating
her cliches and platitudes, I grew ever
less certain of my place in her world.
She was more than willing to assume
my utter lack of tidiness was just one more
sign of rebellion, one only slightly
more tolerable than her assumption
of my drug use, though she had me
a stoner, never acid or mescaline.
I tried, and repeatedly failed, to convince her
that things would be where they wished,
that such was their place, and she
just had to accept everything was
always and already in its place.