So subtle the silent blade
that slices a notch at each second,
by our own indolence made
and at the end of our lives reckoned.
It is a sweet bloodletting
which we but scarce notice at each pass,
in idleness forgetting
the lost sands slipping through the hourglass.
You! Do not presume yourself as safe
from the apex predator of the earth;
rather, feel it gnaw, you silly naif,
the beast who gnaws at you from before birth
and to the day you die, and yet more,
grinding you down to such dissolute dust
that dispenses far, from shore to shore
with our marvels: a legacy of rust.
It comes by land, by air, and by sea,
below, above, and from every side,
within, without, our very chemistry
and our physics, where particles collide
and then fling apart, our building blocks
crumbling with entropy’s ceaseless disease,
a widespread fourth-dimensional pox
inborn as the greatest of maladies.
It will build you up, and then tear you apart,
growing you like a farmer a prized pig,
and will show you love, then break your heart,
butchering you on a scale small and big.
For Time devours us with unseen jaws,
sure as a lion the hapless gazelle,
nor can we escape its savage laws
when fight-or-flight instincts will always fail.
Come away with me— let us ride
far from this withered, cold countryside
upon our fleet-flown phantom steeds
unknown among all earthy breeds
with flowing manes of tidal froth
and hide as soft as pillow cloth
and come away on floating hoofs
over moors and valleys and roofs,
and let us journey on, yonder,
from the mundane to so wander
where the mists of dreams may dawn—
to the isle of lost Avalon.
Away we go, to farthest shore
that borders truth and love and lore;
where a moonlit wave never breaks
except for when a dreamer wakes
to rub the sand from groggy eyes
and dispel dreams with woeful sighs,
but not us, oh not so, not we
as we gallop most silently
over a coast of broken glass
where all the hourglasses amass
and spill in vain their futile sand
on the coast of that timeless land
known and unknown as Never-Not
where still there stands grand Camelot
as a dream within a glass globe
beneath a wizard’s twilit robe,
protected, apart, kept away
from the forces that rust and fray;
a refuge where when we are old
we may yet live in youthful mold
as children in Spring’s fresh ascent
without wondering where youth went;
when spine was not so crooked yet
and mind did not so soon forget,
but kept its joys and loves and sense
like a flower its fresh fragrance,
and eyes could see as keen the hawk
and heart leapt at each other’s talk,
whereas now we wilt, growing frail
with later years that wound and ail,
waking life but nightmare itself
conjured by Time, that witchy elf
who delights in dissolving lives
in her cauldron, which naught survives,
so let us go where Merlin waits:
that Isle of Apples, lest the Fates
destine us for mortal sorrows
that take all our hopeful morrows.
I have oft slain myself
with many leisure hours
spent idle on a shelf
while my dear dream sours—
squandered much in repose
when I might have else gained
much more, or so it goes,
had I not thus refrained,
and in wasting the hours
wasted myself in course
and whatever powers
of mine might provide force
to propel with the stream
of my goals and desires,
profligate unto dream
while my dull life expires.
So many my phases
spent sawing my own thread—
sawing my thread with wear
as Atropos raises
her scissors as fated
to spur strident regret
as I see the frayed seams
and how I also whet
Death with layabout schemes,
for languid was my mode
when ample time blessed me,
but now that I grow old
I am no longer free
to seek diversion for
lounging as I so please,
but must face Death’s black door
and the chill in Fall’s breeze.
I who have taken day
and made a dull, dim thing
of every sunray
that could crown me a king
with the riches of Time,
(a precious rare tender)
rather than this crime
as my own self-lender
and never to be repaid
as the mortgage grows more
with debt indolence made,
for I am a turncoat
against my own season,
a suicide whose note
was slow in its treason.
Hark! The clock strikes again
as day drains to the lees—
it is a mortal sin:
suicide by degrees.
The crickets all gather around
an oak tree to play their lonely songs
while crouching on the dewy ground—
they vibrate their wings in their throngs.
A single cricket left behind,
all alone while the others form pairs,
but continues his song to find
a heart to warm in nightly airs.
Little cricket longing for love,
sawing a song among the gnarled roots
of the oak tree looming above,
and fearless of the marching boots.
What faith you must have in this world
to play so boldly for all to hear
when the cold Fall winds are unfurled
and hungry predators draw near.
The soldiers all gather around
a campfire to sit so they may rest
while a soldier saws a sweet sound
from the violin at his chest.
He sings a sad song for his wife
left at home with his fair-haired daughter
and although there will soon be strife
he plays and plays without falter.
Little soldier mourning his love,
sawing a song among the camplight
with brothers alike, hawk and dove,
and fearless of the marksman’s sight.
What faith you must have in god
to play so boldly for all to hear
your heart’s music like that of Nod
as your enemies draw so near.
Sickly mother tosses around
in her bed, her brow ablaze with fire
and listens to the howling hound
as the crescent moon climbs higher.
Her daughter sits by the window,
the grandfather clock just behind her,
counting the seconds as they go—
each hour’s chime a sad reminder.
Little daughter at the cold glass,
what faith you have in a clock’s numbers
to wait for the slow time to pass
while your sickly mother slumbers.
You count each moment of each day
with a cadenced voice ringing clear
to answer the pendulum’s sway
as the descending Scythe draws near.
To gamble against that grand extortionist,
as he continues his protection racket,
and to inevitably lose,
exchanging the going rate of
dust and cobwebs,
mildew and mold,
faded paint and creeping cracks,
with the punitive rate of
cinder and ash and crumbling stone
is a hard payout,
especially as beautiful stained glass
melts again into sand
which we cup futilely in our hands.
Time is not only thief,
but judge, jury, and
the repo man,
and to expect anything else
is to expect the sun to rise
at nightfall, the skies
to lay down like the oceans,
and the dead to live once again
to embrace us as in days of old.
Time is our landlord
as well as the vandal.
Criminalize the graffiti
and he becomes an arsonist—
begrudge the insatiable blackmail
and bemoan the black smoke as your
beautiful lady’s soul
wafts darkly into the heavens.
She has gone under the knife
to remove his careless scars
only to be smote by his
And yet, even as Time
ravages with his blade and his fire
we join together,
hand in hand,
to suture tightly the hemorrhaging wound
before it can bleed us dry.
Together we hold each other up
even when the world is burning down.
We cannot hope to conjure again
a cathedral from the ashes,
but we can seek sanctuary
beneath the pediment of the human heart.
Like Quasimodo in mourning
there is a beauty to be found
in so much ugliness.
Sometimes I miss the schizophrenic skyline
with its scintillating, insomniac lights;
I miss pretending the scatterbrained city is mine
with all of its vertiginous depths and heights.
But I am populated enough, on my own,
to not need the chaotic, churning crowd
where personal space is only ever on loan
while the claustrophobic air gasps aloud.
The traffic is bumper-to-bumper neurotic,
thoughts rushing through an over-scheduled brain
and each neuron is stressed as you hear your clock tic
while you try to catch the earliest subway train.
In the city you are always running late
and never have a chance to breathe in between
one terminal and another— the city simply will not wait,
like the White Rabbit racing toward the Queen.
I would rather stand from afar, in the dark countryside,
and look at the lights from that sleepy distance,
calming the White Rabbit while the hours abide
to let him regain his breath, and his sense.