Friday, August 2, 2019

#Poetry In Process

Let me say, first off, my apologies for subjecting you to Blogger and Google and the monopoly of manipulation you enter whenever you go to any website. If you are still here after their warning you that they will follow and sell every mouse move and click you make, you get to take part in an experiment. This is the second draft of a new poem and I feel insecure about it. It is about RACE, which is of course a touchy subject for a white man to address. I have asked two poet friends for reactions, both white, and they haven't said a word, which I know, it's hard, so I don't judge. That said, I am hoping a reader, somewhere in the world of weird connections, might give me a reaction, the hardest part is what I must leave out and I think there's something not quite there.

Ode for David Jackson

David, you don’t remember this. I wouldn’t expect you to.
I was just some white guy among the white guys you knew.
You, however, were the only black person I ever talked to.
I still remember the look in your eye when I sat next to you,
while you showed me what you could do on the school piano.
It was nothing, you tossed it off; it stayed with me though.

I think back at how you showed me its simplicity,
how vital and real notes could be in your hands,
the left-handed base line, repeating, so soulfully
and playfully; right fingers dancing, so delicately.
It came naturally to you, this aural seeing through
to how these notes fit, but I would never have heard,
on my own, what you showed in a moment or two.

It was at the Annual Lion’s Club Minstrel Show,
I just happened to sit in the front row and you
happened to be setting up for the band. You
played the drums, as I recall but I am old now,
my memory less distinct, like fog in the snow.
I recall men in black face made you turn yours away.
I feel ashamed to have been there, silent to this day.

You had shown me how James Brown moved,
like he was floating above the floor, and how
he changed the way the downbeat came, on
one and not on two and I understood it, too.
It was not something just anyone would do.   
I became a devotee, some called me a Negrophile,
One said I was a Wigger. I fell into it naturally,
sliding from Ray and Steve Wonder into the blues,
I even played a bluesman once, even paid my dues.

But Dave, I never got to thank you, for hipping me
to sound, to how simple and profound it can be,
music, like life, here and gone, almost instantly.
You never came back after high school. I can’t blame you.
I didn’t either. Who could stand that small town,
so hard to breathe, so low down,
and the culture, so square and unrhythmic,
no heartbeat, no soul, no sound.

        #   #   #

Thanks in advance for any reactions and input. I appreciate them. Poetry's a solitary activity, normally.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Perfect gift for your poetic barber or hairdresser

My father's death last year brought closure to a part of my life that seemed an echo of what he thought being a man was about. It took me many years to understand, he didn't know any more than anyone else did. This chapbook is an attempt to write past that chapter of my life.

Follow the link for the digital bargain from FowlPox Press.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Twitter Experiment Mod and more

Honored to have my poetry read in Poland recently and included in a performance by Teatr Polski.

Inspired to create an iBook from images of Larry Hamill (

The image that comes to my mind first is the Western, particularly one of those old John Ford dramas where the “sod-busters” and the “cow-punchers” are killing each other in a range war over barbed wire technology. I had assumed that my tweets were being transferred and appearing daily. I don’t think it was John Wayne, but someone, perhaps Sergei Brin, made it so bloodspot no longer accepts my feed from twitter. A huge stampeded herd of my scribbles have been found torn to shreds, mere letters and punctuation by the electric fences of the banks of google.

Originally, I set up my blog to automate this function. The original purpose was to offer insight into my first drafts, my notes and notebooks, and constant noodling and puzzling about time and light,. What began as insight into my writing process and my thinking, the things I obsess about, became a time sink. I spent time I didn't feel like sparring and the work suffered. Along the way, in the interest of saving time (read further into past blogs if you care to explore those obsessions,) I switched instead to writing daily on my twitter account ( Nulla dies sine linea.” “Never a day without a line." -- Horace

Hopefully, if you have ever encountered the old fool’s masthead there, and links have brought you here, you will forgive my inaction. Alas, if that has happened, I only discovered it recently. Odd that my experiment with twitter has been altered. I don’t know if it was the Heisenberg principle but I know I didn't do it. Someone observed the experiment and altered the input and bingo,  no twitter feed. Somewhere in the past, who knows how long ago, you may have been disappointed with the infrequency of these rambling internet essays. Essays are fun, but not my favorite thing to write, so I have been neglecting that side of my prosaic practice. That side of my intellect is driven by my fundamental urge to bullshit and ramble, usually after a glass of wine, and lately, again, #Because … time, I have cut back on prose. I had no idea my blog had also eliminated my poetry.

So that brings me to what to do. I have, as they say, “too many irons in the fire.” I will attempt to post less lengthy pieces more frequently. I have finished my iTunes book, The Book of Timelessness, ( and I have more publishing projects ( and others (hopefully a Kindle version of Coal & Ice, /// demanding long hours of sitting at the word processor and re-keying work that is old, and doesn’t interest me anymore. I am always starting new projects include more multimedia, more collaborations, an Art App that combines visuals, sounds and poems in new ways, and I could go on.  ( So, when I can, I will return with prose for those who stop in now and then. Shorter pieces, perhaps with less rambling and leaping from precipice to peak, certainly less time-consuming. But please, if you want original, straight from my pocket notebook inspiration, right from the pencil lead, check me out where the experiment, indeed, does continue, in spite of Heisenberg, Schmidt and Brin.

Friday, December 13, 2013

After much effort, The Book of Timelessness, ( inspired by the photoillustrations of Larry Hamill.  It's the story out of the mysteries of time, a story within a story, a tale of time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Tree Poems

Time does not allow to take you with me on my hike.
Here's a video of me reciting my poems to the beings that inspired them.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I surrender to Amazon. It is like prostrating before the king of beasts and knowing I am but a flea on the rump of the hyena cowering. The lion, of course, is bored having eaten half a zebra. The other monster, who shall not be named because I don't want the great Sauron search engine thinking I speak ill of the all-seeing eye, has further penned me in its reservation. I am contemplating moving my blog to another platform now that Blogger has blocked by Twitter feed. If one is to leap into this electronic cataract, the fewer chains that keep you in one place, the freer your access is to and from others.  All of this is just by way of saying my new book of poems, Ordinary Things, ephemeral poetry by Phil Boiarski ( can be had for free, if one is an Amazon customer, and for less than a dollar, otherwise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Coal & Ice," my memoir has finally been reprinted. ( …) Let me know what you think. I'm working on a digital version.

Monday, June 4, 2012

At the Columbus Arts Festival, I read for about 10 minutes.  Not a great reading but there was a camera there and the sound wasn't bad.

Reading, June 2, Columbus Arts Festival

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A blog about light and darkness, and the thoughts of a being trapped in time from the dark side of Hiroshi Yoshida's full moon

Kumori Cherry Trees                                                                                                              Hiroshi Yoshida (1930)


                                                   Under an April Full Moon

                “In light, darkness, not taken as darkness.  In dark, light, not taken as light.
                    Light and dark oppose like front and back foot walking.”
                                                                                                               -    Shitou

                            The last of dusk, now subsumed in night, 
                  dwells with the pair here in the darkness,

                                  while that enormous April moon,

                                            full & fat, bathes all surfaces in a soft glow.

                           Subtler still, the cherry blooms,

                                              their momentary show
                                                                 reflected in shadowy half-light.

                          The two, one older, both in blossom

                                              pause, as fading eyes mute all starkness 

                                                               and bring all beings closer to

                                                              each other.   Time walks here, too

                        in their forms & in the

                                       two women,  their kimonos,

                                              silvered by the shining,

                                                      like water in an old well.

                                                            #  #  #

On May 4th, I was honored to receive First Place in the Adult Division of the Toledo Museum of Art’s (TOMA) Annual Ekphrastic Writing Contest. (

There was a full moon that night or almost a full moon, not that it mattered precisely. The full moon of May, the planting moon, the flower moon, was in perigee, closer than at any other time in a long time. But it was the same full moon as in April when I wrote this poem and the same full moon Hiroshi Yoshida tried to capture in that April sometime between 1920 & 1930 that whispered its image of light in the darkness and darkness in the light.

The color woodcut that is rather poorly depicted by the jpeg above is an attempt to show the beautiful work that inspired the poem. I believe I saw Yoshida’s work more than 30 years ago when I was on a two-week residency for Ohio’s Poets-in-the-Schools’ Program in nearby Findlay, Ohio. My host and hostess encouraged me to stop and I walked this magical museum for hours, fascinated by a magnificent collection that spanned the centuries. Hiroshi Yoshida ( was sort of the Japanese Maxfield Parrish for me. He had a sense of capturing color and light that was mystical, pure and yet heightened, a vision that to me, seems to be Zen in visual form. By coincidence, the TOMA had purchased Yoshida’s entire exhibit when it toured America. After 1925, Yoshida, like many great artists, hired professional carvers and printers and established a studio to create under his close supervision. This print was done in 1930 and I have no idea whether his hand or his eye formed its “perfect symmetry,”  but it inspired my poem.

Yoshida’s work, miracle that it is, rarely is exhibited, and the coincidence of seeing it when I did, was serendipitous. The works have rarely been shown because the delicacy of the colors could be lost by prolonged exposure to light. The work itself is about light and, like all art, about time, and the “exposure” of the mind to light in time. In looking for what was available to share about this great artist, who is equal to if not superior to many of the great impressionists, I came across this image. It shows, as readily as Monet’s many paintings of Chartres Cathedral that light and time are different in every light at every time in all the places of the world, even to the end of time.


 One source of Yoshida’s work, of course, is the Yoshida family. His children, like the school he founded, went on to their own fame. One gallery with images and video that I found had interesting and noteworthy links, is Artolino. ( If the Museum posts links to my poem and the other ekphrastic writing winners, some very talented young writers, I will post these to the blog.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Adam Saltsman and the "TUD"

When I was a small boy, I took my first paid job. This was more than the “chores” and I knew that, because I got paid. It was this early and deep connection of time to money that got me motivated to constantly think about how I “save” and “spend” my time on my infrequent habit of posting to this blog.

If you have read along with any of this, (I’ve actually had several people comment, so at least a handful of readers may be interested.) you may know that time is my obsession. I don’t know when and where it began but the regulation. the illusion of control, the pricing and pathology of time have always been in my thoughts.

Recently, I stopped selling my time to others, in what my grandfather called, “wage slavery,” and started taking the pension that I nave been earning for nearly 30 years. I don't want to get into the concept of retirement, since I have never associated my poetry with “work.” I have not stopped playing with words on paper from the age of 12. Whatever I sold my time for, every job from manual labor to sophisticated management, I did so I could “afford” the time to write. This is not a blog about other people’s words, but my words and I refuse to think of myself as a pensioner, now retired. Instead, I am a writer who finally has the time to focus on his craft.

A poetic eye, a sense of “seeing” the world in ways that compel you to create, is a gift. Many people have this ability and I have often encountered people who “see” more than just a sunset, or a person, or a work of art. Anyone who has this gift however, is not necessarily a painter, a poet, or an artist. The gift, like a present unopened, is limited without the hard, meticulous and careful work of craft.

Writing is a skill, a skill that like most can only be honed by practice. Thinking, however, is instinctive, the mind makes connections and comes to conclusions, and as one gets older, has less of an aspect of "learning" it has and more of a sort of "measuring against assumptions."
Building the skill set, developing the vocabulary, practicing the way words work, their syntax and grammar, their assonance and consonance, their meanings and implications, is a life long pursuit. The "beginner's mind," like virginity, is hard to maintain, the more you fall in love with a certain "zeitgeist," the more likely you will see things a certain way, that clich├ęd box that every boring businessman is trying to think outside of. For me, much of the way we look at the world is bound by the way we think about time.

Before the “Industrial Revolution” only the wealthy could afford a timepiece. The technology of timekeeping was so complex and expensive that the vast majority of humans used sundials. Time itself was tied to the sunrise and sunset and the cycles of the equinox and solstice, the seasons of planting and harvest. Once people left the farm and started seeing public clocks, clock towers and wall clocks everywhere, for running businesses on set “hours” and requiring workers to “punch the clock,” our way of seeing time began to change. I still reel at the complex equations of regular time and overtime, sick time and personal time, vacation time and comp time that were always a consideration when one got a paycheck. What a crazy agreement we have come to about something we can measure but cannot understand.

I find myself contemplating how neatly rounded my time is now that I no longer have the alarm clock demanding that I quickly rise and sell my day. Almost a childlike sense of freedom, one that makes me incredibly lucky, incredibly graced with the gifts of my country and culture, what we call “the luxury of time.” Now, I can lose the watch and get back to the race from birthday to birthday. Out of the womb, desperately rushing to "grow up" through that period where the body is no longer changing so dramatically, growing so quickly into a ripening, a maturation and peaking of one's physical gifts to the slowing pace. Then, fight as you may, the gradual, resisted but inevitable aging to a place in time when those birthdays dwindle down to but a few dozen. All the while, time itself looks different than it did during every age.

“Time wears everything, wears it away, worn grass on the path, stone on the step, paint on the rail, wood on the door, flesh on the bone.”

A child can while away the time, but as an adult, time whittles away at you. Time like the moon, there is so much of its waxing to grow to fullness that just the passing of that time itself seems enough. But like the waning moon, it seems to disappear and go the other way after one has passed the peak of fullness. The ripeness is perfect; it’s the rot that kills you. Adults can learn to be deliberate, to use the time well, to plan and manage, but nothing can keep it from coming, not exercise, not surgery, not chemicals. Like death, itself, it’s part of the deal. Time is the essence of being and being the essence of time.

I emphasize one can slow the advance, because all of us have different abilities in this area. I work at it but I don’t kid myself. But the true joy that has bubbled up now that I have stopped getting up each morning to do my part of the satanic bargain has surprised me. I knew there would be a reward and if I was frugal and planned well, a sense of security, but I never knew the giddiness of childhood would bubble up now and then to tickle my tired soul.

After 40 some years of selling my time to support my poetry habit, I have managed to land here, in retirement, not rich or poor, able to do a lot more writing, in other words, to do what all this saving and planning was for. Before, I had “time” to write only in the evenings or on weekends and then, only if stolen from all the other activities of life one needs to be a husband, father and citizen. Now, I have time to tie myself to the desk daily and create, good or bad, long or short, work that is for myself and my struggle to understand my world.

Such scheduling conflicts between the demands of art and life, the family and the muse, are old ones. Without patrons or early success, an artist, like an addict, pursues his or her dreams at the expense of everyone else. I know many an artist who "took" his or her time to work from those who depended on them, supported them, fed or housed or encouraged them. I have never been able to justify being "supported" in my artistic life. Having a family and holding a child in your arms changes how you feel about how you "spend" your time. I can’t pretend to have resolved all of these conflicts while I had children at home or even now, when my beautiful grandchildren beckon in their blossoming. How pleasant to spend a little time on the floor giggling with someone who is just learning to talk or reading to someone who is just learning to appreciate good writing. Why write when so few will read or care about what you write, when writing takes away from living? I have to say, I have no choice. I find myself here all the time, poised at the point of the pencil, hands hovering above the keyboard, my mind trying to catch my thoughts and put them down before they disappear into the maw of time.

To take the time to write about life, or to live the life, a tough choice, and one that has troubled me for an answer since I first started spending time in the mindset of a writer. What drove me, I can’t say. It hasn’t been fortune or fame. It is as if one cannot help doing this, as if the addiction of capturing this fleeting thought and forging the precise container for words to carry it from my mind to another is intoxicating. I am driven to do it even if I a deluded to think someone else might care enough to read it. I do it because I must, because even when I stop, I find myself picking up a pen and recording, then reshaping then rewriting my thoughts. Nothing is as important to me as crafting this string of words to carry the thread of this idea out of my mind and onto the page. Is it a waste of time?

Now, that I have more time to try this trick, I find my random thoughts tangled up in time again; trapped, as I am in the stream of change. Like a fish in the current, not just the water; time is the medium I live in, like the air I breathe. It is the current, the movement of the water, it's passing fascinates me yet as Dogen says, “You never step into the same stream once.”

I recently came across a new term that in a way captures how precious and fleeting life is. A “TUD” is a measurement of time, and it is used to define a unit of in the world of game-playing.
TUD is a acronym for "Time Until Death,” a measurement defined by Adam Saltsman, game designer, ( ) meaning that piece of the finite time we have left which we are willing to waste on a game.

The "TUD" appeals to me as a word person because someone coined it in my lifetime. As Pound said, the poet''s job it to "Make it new!" and nothing says "new" like a new word. TUD has the additional aural quality of mimicking a heartbeat, that quintessential sound of life we hear whenever we are quietly in our bodies. TUD TUD, (pause), TUD TUD, "ad finitum," so to speak. I like it much better than "second," because, for me at least, the half life of cesium doesn't seem half as concrete and real as half a heartbeat. I also like the flippant, yet profound "drumish" simplicity of the sound, that initial "plosive" of the "T," then the uh, that inchoate utterance we use to space thought, followed by the final stop, the dread end of the dead "D." Such sweet coincidence of sound and meaning is not to be ignored lightly. I get a kind of linguistic thrill, in my collective unconscious, a Jung-Campbell "frisson" when I find a word like that occurring in our language.

Psychologically, the word also fits neatly into my own musings and thoughts about time, its wanting and wasting, and though I can't do a damned thing about it, the rapidity at which it seems to be flying while I am having so much fun. Now, I find myself parsing the TUDs needed to write these screeds, their demands on my creative work dictate the infrequency of the postings and only when there are a lot of TUD’s to spare do I think I can afford to post. I hope you understand.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Take Five Cesium Seconds

“Time has been a major subject of religion, philosophy, and science, but defining it in a non-controversial manner applicable to all fields of study has consistently eluded the greatest scholars.” -Wikipedia

I feel better now. Defining time, (as in de-finus, to limit, to make finite) has always “consistently eluded” me, too. Ever since I was a child, small enough to be stepped over when adults rushed to be “on time” to this event or that, time puzzled and fascinated me. Once I conquered space, walking and counting, became events in time and time itself “defined” as “tics and tocks” measured by a plastic cat on the wall whose eyes rolled to and fro and whose aqua tail clicked back and forth in “time” with them. Even now, I have a hard time comprehending how quickly the time has passed from my childhood until this moment. I have a haiku that tries to express this feeling.

Climbing the mountain,
I look back to see how much
I have forgotten.

Much of my writing since childhood has focused on the past present in every day. If you have read this blog before you know that much of it is focused on my belief that time is inextricably linked to how I see my writing, a desperate attempt to capture the little firefly of thought before it disappears into the darkness of forgotten time. There is remembered past and there is forgotten past and Dave Brubeck and his crew of truly gifted musicians, whose 1959 album, “Time Out,” experimented with 5/6, 9/8, 5/4 and 6/4 “time.”

In “looking back” to when I was about 14, just starting to understand my self, or at least understand that I was different, an alien, a creature trapped in this space and time with this life to live out. I spent that period in the adolescent agony, consumed with sex and death. When I say sex, I mean of “Portnoy’s Complaint” than of “Candy.” Still a child in some ways, I was just learning what it meant to feel change, my body growing out of my clothes in a matter of months, my shoes not fitting each school year. The shame of acne and the pain of unrequited schoolboy crushes and early experiences with death.

I recall the biggest-selling Jazz recording by the best known combo in US history started playing on the radio. Hearing “Take Five” for the first time was, for me, a moment of expanding consciousness. I remember listening intently to Joe Morello’s drum solo with amazement, realizing for the first “time” that a drum could play a “lead” role and “keep time” while playing with and around the intricate rhythms of the song, how it “marked” time and then the piano took up that chore, while the drum played around that rhythm. I remember Paul Desmond’s sweet sax, like a gilded bird floating over the rhythms, Gene Wright taking the bass lead, Brubeck generous, supporting the entire effect, timeless.

I can’t recall a drum solo before and any since, except for when I heard Ginger Baker solo with “Cream,” at the Fillmore in San Francisco in the 60’s. No others stand out in my memory at all. Ginger Baker, fabulous as that was, was live, as well. I’m sure Gene Krupa was banging away in some big band prior to that recording. I’m sure Ringo put in a few beats that I might find attached to some memories. Baker’s solo was always in such a large venue and for such a short burst that it was never as “memorable” to me as the first time I heard this airy, almost meditative turn an the sticks, one that starts soon after the theme has been established and continues for several minutes, longer than any drumming I had ever heard recorded. It helped me appreciate the idea of “keeping time” or “marking time” with the time “signature” of the music, an odd 5/6 time that I had never heard before then.

If you haven’t heard the piece or can’t recall it in any detail, you should give it another listen. It was part of an experimental album that used a lot of odd time signatures. Brubeck’s piano often took the role of rhythm-keeper, pulling back to support the drum as it explored these strange timings in a half dozen different variations. It seemed to me to be about time itself and how music and time were integrated. It communicated more to me about time than Steven Hawking has ever been able to.

Music, has always seemed to me, to be an art form that is particularly about time. It takes the “measure” of a moment, the “tempo” and the rhythms “mark” time in “signatures” and “beats.” Of course, it is about so much more than “just” that. But, like dance, music exists in the moment. We may “record” that moment and “play” it “back” again and again, but the “recording” happened at one unique, specific moment and that moment is what is being “recalled” for us to sing along or dance to. This is part of the reason a song can be linked so completely to a memory, or a couple can say, “They’re playing our song.” Songs, like all utterances, occur in time. We forget it has only been since Edison that a song could exist after the singer had disappeared into the past.

“Two contrasting viewpoints on time divide many prominent philosophers. One view is that time is part of the fundamental structure of the universe, a dimension in which events occur in sequence. Sir Isaac Newton subscribed to this realist view, and hence it is sometimes referred to as Newtonian time.[3][4] Time travel, in this view, becomes a possibility as other "times" persist like frames of a film strip, spread out across the time line. The opposing view is that time does not refer to any kind of "container" that events and objects "move through", nor to any entity that "flows", but that it is instead part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events. This second view, in the tradition of Gottfried Leibniz[5] and Immanuel Kant,[6][7] holds that time is neither an event nor a thing, and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be traveled.” – Wikipedia

I don’t have the inclination, not the intellectual chops to get into the argument between Newton and Kant but I tend to think Kant’s ideas are more poetic and mysterious and to me, more attractive. It fits with my Zen view of the mind as the frame through which the world is “perceived”, in the Latinate definition, i.e. “to seize completely.” We seize the world in our battle to understand it, we capture it one moment at a time, take hold of our little frame for looking at what we want to see, and try not to notice those things that do not fit or match that framework before that moment melts away.

I used to think it quite arbitrary how we chose to measure time. I mean, after all, it’s a long way from a sundial or hourglass and the cesium atom. The current definition of time has cesium embedded in every second. Again, according to Wikipeida, “In 1967, a specific frequency from the emission spectrum of caesium-133 was chosen to be used in the definition of the second by the International System of Units. Since then, cesium has been widely used in atomic clocks.” (Prior to 1967, I guess this was determined by someone saying “one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi.”)

All of this measurement is important for sequencing events, and of course, in some particular events, such as competitions and tourneys, competitors are limited by a “clock.” Many sports even have an official timekeeper. Ironically, it leads me to another thought about time and that is the “relativity” of its passing more or less quickly in certain circumstances. Often, the last few minutes of a game, with their strategic “time outs” allow the time during which a game occurs to pass more slowly and even run into “overtime,” which has always struck me as a sort of “life after death.” In baseball, that is preferable to a tie score. However, Americans are willing to sit through a dozen innings as if time had no importance when you turn a square on its side and call it a diamond.

It was once thought that the mind was actually perceiving time in "slow-motion" when under great stress but that was recently shown to be an exaggerated memory, rather than the moment itself. They found this out by dropping subjects from a high tower into a net and measuring their eye movements and brain activity. What will they think of next?

And cesium, itself, has more “timely” connotations from its discovery at the beginning of the 19th century. According to Wikipedia, again, “Since 1967, the International System of Measurements has based its unit of time, the second, on the properties of cesium. The International System of Units (SI) defines the second as 9,192,631,770 cycles of the radiation, which corresponds to the transition between two hyperfine energy levels of the ground state of the cesium-133 atom.[61] The 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures of 1967 defined a second as: "the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of microwave light absorbed or emitted by the hyperfine transition of cesium-133 atoms in their ground state undisturbed by external fields". One wonders if this precision, this desire to mark and measure so accurately the passing of a moment, takes into account whether that moment is spent in torture or pleasure.

Ironically, this extremely rare element is evident in abundance now in the topsoil of Fukushima province, an aftermath of the Fukushima reactor co-existing with an earthquake and tsunami in the space/time continuum. My first haiku about that moment in time that is slowed when history is being made, when you know this has never happened before, was about a news clip. The video showed a cherry tree in one of the ancient towns destroyed completely by the tsunami. Snow was cloaking the wreckage in a mass of white crystal, but the shapes were so jagged and irregular that the scene was anything but peaceful. The tree had blossomed and was bravely standing it’s place while all round had been swept away.

This Spring’s cherry tree
blossoming pink in the snow,
glows in the darkness.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Time, the Bandit

This is always the time of year when I find myself temporarily focused on the passing of time, the “temporal” world. Being so embedded in “being,” one seldom has time to notice, take note of, contemplate it is passing. However, when our calendars change, just as when our clocks move ahead or back, I find my mind turning to thoughts of what has passed and what will come.

Saint Augustine famously said that he knew precisely what time was as long as no one asked him. Once he was asked for a definition, “instantly,” he no longer knew. I have the same experience when I stop and take measure of all the moments that have occurred. It is as if I dipped my cup into the flow and by the time it reached my lips it had evaporated. It seems as if “now” is something we never have time to “know.”

There are essays to read, books galore to explore. Hawking and hundreds of others all the way back to Aristotle discuss the idea. The best I can derive from my reading is the complex relationship between “being” and “becoming” is serving as part of the current thought pattern that philosophers and mathematicians puzzle about. My mind has a hard time using language in a way the permits different forms of the verb “to be” to be parsed and placed, like their proper pieces in some larger picture. After all, every part of existence “is” now and at the same time “becomes” older, or less viable with each succeeding second. As much as I want to believe the cyclical pattern ancient minds perceived in what we in the West see as linear, I guess I just can’t get my mind to pull back so far as to see where the curve that “becomes” the circle “begins.”

It brings me back again and again to the magic and mystery of language, which permits us to talk about these abstract concepts in ways we actually “believe” make sense. As I child, would read the entire dictionary in the hope that by knowing all the words, I might actually “see” how things worked, how my incomprehensible world could be understood. Eventually, I gave that ritual up, not so much because I felt I knew. It was as if I realized it was useless and I had better things to do.

We can’t really stand outside of time, so it is exceedingly difficult to grasp at any sort of objectivity on the matter. We move through time and it moves through us, but like the air we breathe, we almost never notice ourselves in its grip. Pictures, captured light from one moment we were in that has moved on, give us some sense of its passing. I found fascinating this work by Argentine photographer, Diego Goldberg of his family, an interesting artistic comment on “the snapshot” and how it both kills the moment and preserves it as the next moment supersedes it.

Diego Goldberg and his family can be seen at his website, The Arrow of Time. His idea and its concrete expression is as powerful a mediation on time as any words I might pen.

I am not the only one to be inspired and intrigued by the Goldberg family, ABC News, ://, as well as artists and essayists have riffed off of the inspiration of these precise pieces of the past.

As I studied the photos, I kept noticing slight changes in the faces from year to year, ones that were subtle but perceptible, that must have been invisible as each body was touched by time. The collagen and elastin in the skin degenerate minutely each moment and after years, the faces that filled with life in youth, begin slowly to drain in the juicy and elastic dermis and epidermis and wrinkles, creases, furrows and folds appear. The number, size and length of the facial muscles fibers decrease and tone takes the path of gravity down.

More discernible to the self, but less visible to the world are all the internal changes, the joint wear, the cartilage breakdown, the acuity of vision, then hearing, the number of taste buds, then smell starts to go. The heart tires in its second billion beats, less able to pump so we tire more easily and recover more slowly. The number and density of nerve cells diminish and in most, the spinal cord and brain start to atrophy. The stomach produces less acid after the age of 50 and it therefore absorbs less vitamin B12, found naturally in food. Strength, motion and flexibility all decrease, along with height. We get about 0.4” shorter each decade as the spine compresses under the constancy of gravity. Some things continue to grow, the ears and nose getting larger and longer.

All this sounds pretty disheartening but age is the price of life. An interesting essay in today’s NYT ( about the delusions current baby boomers are buying into puts some perspective on how we face these incontrovertible facts.

I have concluded that there is much that can be done to make this process easier. Since I have been going to the gym a few times a week, I am much more able to cope with the everyday aches and pains of aging. A few of the buff geezers there have actually reached their eighties, while maintaining the appearance of someone in their early sixties. Still, 60 is six decades and there can not “be” too many of those decades “becoming” in any of our futures. One comfort, as I pump my half hour on the elliptical and travel from one exercise station to the next with my iPod inspiring me to "shake it with the oldies" is that even the youngest and most buff members are trapped, like all of us, in the matter of time. Like insects in amber, unable to escape the world that blurs along with us, inside and outside of us, we have no idea what we are coming to. Yes, just as the eye cannot see itself, the “now” cannot truly know its own essence.