Words can bang around in your head
Forever, if you let them and you give them room.
I used to love poetry, and mostly I still do,
Though sometimes “I, too, dislike it.” There must be
Something real beyond the fiddle and perfunctory
Consolations and the quarrels—as of course
There is, though what it is is difficult to say.
The salt is on the briar rose, the fog is in the fir trees.
I didn’t know what it was, and I don’t know now,
But it was what I started out to do, and now, a lifetime later,
All I’ve really done. The Opening of the Field,
Roots and Branches, Rivers and Mountains: I sat in my room
Alone, their fragments shored against the ruin or revelation
That was sure to come, breathing in their secret atmosphere,
Repeating them until they almost seemed my own.
We like to think our lives are what they study to become,
And yet so much of life is waiting, waiting on a whim.
So much of what we are is sheer coincidence,
Like a sentence whose significance is retrospective,
Made up out of elementary particles that are in some sense
Simply sounds, like syllables that finally settle into place.
You probably think that this is a poem about poetry
(And obviously it is), yet its real subject is time,
For that’s what poetry is—a way to live through time
And sometimes, just for a while, to bring it back.
~ From “Ninety-Fifth Street” by John Koethe
“Personification of Time in a Flower Garland” by Carstian Luyckx, 1650
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