|A Copernican calendar based on the Sun’s movement through the seasons|
Humans have many time-keeping traditions. Our calendars track the movement of the Sun or the Moon. You could have a celestial calendar that tracked the movement of the stars.
I suspect that some people might track the year based on the changing seasons. You might personally mark the new year on your birthday. After 40 years of teaching, it is difficult for me to not feel that September starts a new year. The way we mark time throughout a day or year is often personal despite the larger time-keeping that is supposed to organize time for us.
When I mentioned to another poet that I was thinking about using a writing prompt about keeping time, she said: “You mean like in music?” That was a natural way to view my prompt for her because she is a musician.
In Walt Whitman’s “To Think of Time,” his thoughts turn to questions all of us have had at some point.
To think of time—of all that retrospection!
To think of to-day, and the ages continued henceforward!
Have you guess’d you yourself would not continue?
Have you dreaded these earth-beetles?
Have you fear’d the future would be nothing to you?
Is to-day nothing? Is the beginningless past nothing?
In our model poem for this prompt titled “Time Passes,” Joy Ladin personifies Time which seems to have as much trouble dealing with itself as we have dealing with it. I love that while the other three dimensions are sleeping, Time is sweating it out in the middle of the night and feeling lost.
Time too is afraid of passing, is riddled with holes
through which time feels itself leaking…
Time has lost every picture of itself as a child.
Now time is old, leathery and slow.
Can’t sneak up on anyone anymore…
All of our attempts to control time ultimately fail. Even the best calendars and clocks are off at some point. Laura Kasischke has a poem titled “The Time Machine” which suggests that long-wished-for-ability to go back or forward in time to somehow change the present.
My mother begged me: Please, please, study
I would have no future, and this
is the future that was lost in time to me…
When I first read T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the image that stayed with me was of measuring a life with coffee spoons.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?
This month, we ask you to write a poem that measures the passing of time using some personal metric that may only be useful or relevant to you.