A Length of Time


In blackest days, the lore of old
Comes beckoning us to the past.
Once lost inside, we safely fold
Our memories so they will last.
There cannot be a breadth of time;
There is no depth to call a span.
Time is but length, so ill-defined
To measure out the life of man.
But as we fathom every clue
That reason resonates upon
We seek to find a better view:
Our childhood pleasures, now long gone.
Our youth is lost as it is spent
And leaves behind its residue
Untouched by winds of ill portent
Fast fading from our point-of-view.
With every click of ticking hours,
We lose the thoughts we once held dear.
Impressions fade like fragile flowers
And melt into the atmosphere.
We strive to hold to every crumb
Experience throws in our way
But cannot hold a modicum
Of hope that things will stay this way.
So as we sit and contemplate
The yellowed tomes of days of yore
Let’s not forget the sad estate
Of thinking of forevermore.
Time is but length, a chafing rope
That forms a cruel hangman’s noose
And all that we can do is cope:
For fighting it serves little use.

© Thomas Horton, 2013


Tom, you are a rarity among poets — one whose facility with tools of the craft can cross genre lines with apparent ease.  I know free verse is your first love, but it’s hard for me to imagine the substance of this message being conveyed as clearly without the gentle thrum of iambic heartbeats to underscore the mood.    The topic is an ever popular one, but you’ve succeeded in making it feel fresh, so reading this poem is like sitting down with an old friend and gaining a new perspective.  There are some delicious phrases to savor here, such as “every clue that reason resonates upon,” not only for its sonic quality but also its clarity of expression.  I think that’s exactly how it works, as the tiniest shred of a clue can prick the ears of reason and inspire it to chew until every morsel of meaning has been extracted.  I also love the imagery in folding memories for safekeeping, youth leaving behind its residue of innocence, and impressions melting into the atmosphere.

In the interest of  no-reaction-too-insignificant-to-mention, I should let you know that I had to go back and force myself to give beckoning and memories the requisite three syllables each in the context of this metrical pattern, but that’s a minor nit to be expected from a meter maid, which could simply be chalked up to regional variations in pronunciation.  I noticed the redundancy in “seek to find” and wondered if you couldn’t make better use of that space, and I have to say that I find blocks of text easier to absorb with white space.  But, again, nothing that spoils the overall effect.

Time is but length, so ill-defined
To measure out the life of man.

Ah, but in these lines you bring us a little closer to meaningful definition and measurement.  Timeless wisdom laid out on a soft bed of metrical precision with rhymes that nudge like pillows instead of clanging like an alarm clock — what’s not to like?  Thank you.

Mary Boren