Ordinary Time

By Tim Dlugos 1950–1990 Tim Dlugos
Which are the magic
moments in ordinary
time? All of them,
for those who can see.
That is what redemption
means, I decide
at the meeting. Then
walk with David wearing
his new Yale T-shirt
and new long hair to 103.
Leonard and Eileen come, too.
Leonard wears a shark’s tooth
on a chain around his neck
and long blond hair.
These days he’s the manager
of Boots and Saddles (“Bras
and Girdles,” my beloved
Bobby used to say) and
costumer for the Gay Cable
Network’s Dating Game.
One week the announcer is
a rhinestone cowboy, sequin
shirt and black fur chaps,
the next a leatherman, etc.
Eileen’s crewcut makes
her face light up.
Underneath our hairstyles,
23 years of sobriety, all told—
the age of a girl who’s “not
so young but not so very old,”
wrote Berryman, who flew
from his recovery with the force
of a poet hitting bottom.
It’s not the way I choose
to go out of this restaurant
or day today, and I
have a choice. Wanda
the comedian comes over
to our table. “Call me
wicked Wanda,” she smirks
when we’re introduced.
Why is New York City
awash in stand-up comics
at the least funny point
in its history? Still,
some things stay the same.
People wonder what the people
in their buildings would think
if the ones who were wondering
became incredibly famous,
as famous as Madonna.
Debby Harry lived in Eileen’s
building in the Village
in the early seventies, and she
was just the shy girl
in the band upstairs.
Poets read the writing
of their friends, and
are happy when they like it
thoroughly, when the work’s
that good and the crippling
sense of competition stays away.
Trips get planned: David
home to California, Eileen
to New Mexico, Chris and I
to France and Spain, on vectors
which will spread out
from a single point, like ribs
of an umbrella. Then
after the comfort of a wedge
of blueberry peach pie and cup
of Decaf, sober friends
thread separate ways home
through the maze of blankets
on the sidewalk covered with
the scraps of someone else’s life.
Mine consists of understanding
that the magic isn’t something
that I make, but something
that shines through the things
I make and do and say
the way a brooch or scrap of fabric
shines from the detritus
to catch Leonard’s eye
and be of use for costumes,
when I am fearless and thorough
enough to give it room,
all the room there is in ordinary
time, which embraces all
the people and events and hopes
that choke the street tonight
and still leaves room for everyone
and everything and every
other place, the undescribed
and indescribable, more various
and cacophonous than voice
can tell or mind conceive,
and for the sky’s vast depths
from which they’re all
a speck of light.

Tim Dlugos, "Ordinary Time" from A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos. Copyright © 2011 by Tim Dlugos.  Reprinted by permission of Nightboat Books.

Source: A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos (Nightboat Books, 2011)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Tim Dlugos 1950–1990

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Midlife, Activities, Jobs & Working, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tim  Dlugos


Poet Tim Dlugos was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and grew up in Arlington, Virginia. From 1968 to 1970, he was a Christian Brother at LaSalle College in Philadelphia. He left LaSalle and moved to Washington, DC, where he participated in the Mass Transit poetry readings. In the late 1970s, he moved to New York City and was active in the Lower East Side literary scene, where he was a contributing editor to Christopher Street . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Midlife, Activities, Jobs & Working, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.