Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rough Draft: "Memo Mori"

Last week's poetic rough draft included the line "as if we needed another poem about mortality." Perhaps we don't, but that's what we have this week. It was inspired, oddly enough, by going through another batch of photographs from our year in England. Each month this year, I'm ordering prints of pictures I took in the corresponding month a year ago. Hence, yesterday's mail brought photographs from May 2007, including this photograph of rapeseed, or rape, blooming in the gentle hills south of the Hatton Locks on the Grand Union Canal. The yellow field in the middle of the photograph is rapeseed. One of the footpaths that Clara and I walked regularly (because it led to one of our favorite pubs) crossed such a field. When the flowers were in bloom, the yellow pollen was so thick and sticky that it clung to us and turned us yellow.

Comments on the poem—in the form of either criticism or praise—are greatly appreciated.

Memo Mori

A year ago we walked through English fields
of rape that turned us golden as we passed.
You said that in a year we’d be back home
to walk among the unhedged fields, uncastled towns.
Now here we are, looking back at everything
we were looking forward to a year ago.
A year of our lives has stretched and shrunk
between anticipation and remembrance.
Meanwhile, we live from heartbeat to heartbeat,
breath to breath, one foot in front of the other.
As if life were what lay on either side of now.
An urgent cardinal circles us in red, calling
hurry hurry hurry. There are things to do.
The trees are covered in sticky notes.
But one by one, October will take them down,
another summer crossed off the list, another year.
Sooner or later, everything becomes undone.


Shan said...

I love this poem. The part about not living in the moment, but instead always obsessing about the past and/or the future---it's so true. I wonder why we do that? The years do go by so terribly fast, don't they, while we're busy crossing things off our lists?

Christopher Tassava said...

God. So good. I personally rarely have the sense of time speeding by; I usually feel like it's moving at exactly the right pace. Perhaps this is just ignorance, or obtuseness, or basic cluelessness. But this poem sent me off on hours of thinking about memory and time's passage. Working out this evening, a few lines of response came to mind, and so I've presumptuously written a quarter-as-good response.

Jim H. said...

This could be a song. "The Days of Ale and Rapeseed"

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Love the poem. Especially liked the line about trees covered in sticky notes. I just subscribed to your blog and enjoy reading it!

New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .