Time Problem

By Brenda Hillman b. 1951 Brenda Hillman
The problem
of time.          Of there not being   
enough of it.

My girl came to the study
and said Help me;
I told her I had a time problem   
which meant:
I would die for you but I don’t have ten minutes.   
Numbers hung in the math book   
like motel coathangers. The Lean   
Cuisine was burning
like an ancient city: black at the edges,   
bubbly earth tones in the center.   
The latest thing they’re saying is lack   
of time might be
a “woman’s problem.” She sat there   
with her math book sobbing—
(turned out to be prime factoring: whole numbers   
dangle in little nooses)
Hawking says if you back up far enough   
it’s not even
an issue, time falls away into
'the curve' which is finite,
boundaryless. Appointment book,   
soprano telephone—
(beep End beep went the microwave)

The hands fell off my watch in the night.
I spoke to the spirit
who took them, told her: Time is the funniest thing   
they invented. Had wakened from a big
dream of love in a boat
No time to get the watch fixed so the blank face   
lived for months in my dresser,
no arrows
for hands, just quartz intentions, just the pinocchio   
nose         (before the lie)
left in the center;            the watch
didn’t have twenty minutes; neither did I.
My girl was doing
her gym clothes by herself;         (red leaked
toward black, then into the white
insignia)                  I was grading papers,
heard her call from the laundry room:   
Mama?
Hawking says there are two
types of it,
real and imaginary (imaginary time must be   
like decaf), says it’s meaningless
to decide which is which
but I say: there was tomorrow-
and-a-half
when I started thinking about it; now   
there’s less than a day. More
done. That’s
the thing that keeps being said. I thought   
I could get more done as in:
fish stew from a book. As in: Versateller   
archon, then push-push-push
the tired-tired around the track like a planet.   
Legs, remember him?
Our love—when we stagger—lies down inside us. . .   
Hawking says
there are little folds in time
(actually he calls them wormholes)
but I say:
there’s a universe beyond
where they’re hammering the brass cut-outs .. .
Push us out in the boat and leave time here—         

(because: where in the plan was it written,   
You’ll be too busy to close parentheses,
the snapdragon’s bunchy mouth needs water,   
even the caterpillar will hurry past you?
Pulled the travel alarm
to my face: the black
behind the phosphorous argument kept the dark   
from being ruined. Opened   
the art book
—saw the languorous wrists of the lady
in Tissot’s “Summer Evening.” Relaxed. Turning   
gently. The glove
(just slightly—but still:)   
“aghast”;
opened Hawking, he says, time gets smoothed   
into a fourth dimension   
but I say
space thought it up, as in: Let’s make
a baby space, and then
it missed. Were seconds born early, and why   
didn’t things unhappen also, such as
the tree became Daphne. . .

At the beginning of harvest, we felt
the seven directions.
Time did not visit us. We slept
till noon.
With one voice I called him, with one voice   
I let him sleep, remembering
summer years ago,
I had come to visit him in the house of last straws   
and when he returned
above the garden of pears, he said
our weeping caused the dew. . .

I have borrowed the little boat
and I say to him Come into the little boat,   
you were happy there;

the evening reverses itself, we’ll push out   
onto the pond,
or onto the reflection of the pond,   
whichever one is eternal

Brenda Hillman, “Time Problem” from Loose Sugar. Copyright © 1997 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Loose Sugar (Wesleyan University Press, 1997)

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Poet Brenda Hillman b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Time & Brevity, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Activities, Indoor Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Brenda  Hillman

Biography

One of contemporary poetry’s most eclectic and formally innovative writers, Brenda Hillman is known for poems that draw on elements of found texts and document, personal meditation, observation, and literary theory. Often described as “sensuous” and “luminescent,” Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice, while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Activities, Indoor Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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