Time and the Body

My body cannot imagine an existence
without the march of days and skies
that pass over my head with the imperceptible
crawl of the sun and the fantastically slow roll
of the constellations that pull at me
with the doggedness of a leash.
My body is confused by timelessness,
it draws strength from events that arrange themselves
into the myth of a journey or the abiding ritual of meals;
it craves signposts like grapes in autumn
or a profusion of wildflowers
along the road where I live in spring,
or the muck and smell of mud in winter.
The trees, sleeping in a blanket of dense bark,
rooted in the long reach of growth and collapse,
the stones, deaf and mute and imperfectly eternal,
and the earth—not the planet in my mind which is
a speck of congealed minerals falling in a colossal void—
but the foothills where I walk, the beets I pull from loose soil,
the orange tree, or the compact dirt under my feet,
these reinforce the sense that the world is not unhinged.
Even the orderliness of a chronic backache
that worsens and lessens by degrees,
or the smell of the wound that scabs and heals,
or the sons and daughters that have the color of our hair
our talent for numbers, or a predisposition for a disease
of the heart, or eyes that are a mixture of blue and gray—
these also possess a primitive, animal-like comfort.

For my body the notion of eternity is exhausting,
an unending extension of days without night,
an endless desert of eggs and blinding light,
the interrogation of summer without half-closed lids,
the illusion of autumn darkening the landscape
from gold to brown, green to yellow, blue to grey,
without the promise of harvest in the morning;
for my body’s endlessness is a nightmare,
a waterfall that rushes over a cliff into nothing,
a sea without a shore, a sky without a planet,
a voyage that never circles back home.

My mind, driven as it is by astonishment,
is unfettered by the sequential road of earlier and later;
next can easily be a vision of my own funeral
with trappings of grey sky, rain, black umbrellas,
and the harbor of implacable distance,
or a memory of a boy, who, without reason,
ran up a path in a field because nothing less
could express the consciousness he felt
on that hill, on that planet, as the evening washed
over the summer air with its dark, cooling balm.
My mind, living already in a makeshift timelessness,
is undaunted by the idea of eternity,
But the idea is not existence, is not presence:
timelessness welling up drop by drop
until the flood of light transports us
out of ourselves–the mind cannot follow that.

This is all good, you say, but really
what you want to know is how I feel:
I feel that all the people I see everywhere,
in the street, in the cafes, in the shops,
the actors in their costumes, the heavy-eyed policemen,
the doctors in their white coats, the couples kissing in the park,
everybody, the boy with his ball and the old man with his cane,
are dying, and what is more, that we all have taken
this one certainty and placed it just out of reach
like an ill-fitting coat buried in the back of a closet.