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Saving Minutes

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You were in bed.
You heard your mother working in the kitchen.
It was still light, the birds were bickering,
the waterfall behind the house was falling.
Its rushing lulled you,
you loved the moment you lay in,
and you counted the time
from this instant

to this,
and put it away
to be lived on another night,
your wedding night or some other night
that needed all the luck,
all the saved-up minutes you could bring it.

Later you filled bottles in the stream
and dated them and stored them in a cupboard.
Months after, you retrieved them
to stare at what time had done.
You were eight, but already you knew
it was working on you,
each minute you passed through was gone.
You didn’t want to give up your old clothes.
You’d watch your mother wrap
your dresses in a box for another girl
and know that where their stripes and buttons went
what you’d lived in them followed.

But those minutes in bed,
minutes of utter safety,
you heard the water falling
and didn’t want it to fall.
You wanted to keep it,
you saved yourself that minute.
I don’t know if you still have it
or if you’ve had to spend it
on you or on me.
But I know you still save minutes
I used to think went unwatched
into our account in time
that allows no withdrawals.
You hold onto the slippers and letters,
things that are leaving, things we’ve left,
evidence we’re judged unfairly by.
You have the picture, you and Pam in blue
fishing in the stream below the pool,
staring back at the camera half-abashed.
Your jacket is still in the closet.
You never wear it,
you don’t even remember when you did,
but it’s here to testify
the picture doesn’t lie
—though the color’s different,
your hair is shorter now,
and the water in the pool
is long gone downstream.


Jonathan Galassi, “Saving Minutes” from North Street and Other Poems (New York: HarperCollins, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Galassi. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: North Street and Other Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2001)
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Saving Minutes

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  • Jonathan Galassi is the author of two volumes of poetry, Morning Run (1998) and North Street (2000), and the novel Muse (2015). Galassi is also an eminent translator of Italian poetry. He has spent over 25 years studying Eugenio Montale’s poetry and has published several collections of Montale’s work, including Eugenio Montale: The Second Life of Art: Selected Essays (1982) and Collected Poems 1920–1954 (1998). Reviewing Collected Poems for the New York Times, Nicholas Jenkins found Galassi’s translation “faithful to the weird lexical discords in Montale’s writing, to its compactness, to its odd combination of verbal vigor and imaginative obscurity, to its often exquisitely discreet avoidance of rhyme”; the London Review of Books pronounced Galassi’s rendering “unlikely to be superseded for a long time.”

    Raised in southeastern Massachusetts, Galassi studied poetry at Harvard University with Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is an...

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