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The House of Time

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And fleetingly it seemed to him
That in between one eye blink and the next
Time paused, allowing time to be installed
Within that countless interim,
Coiled up, on hold,
A memory predicted and recalled.
Now, that weak muscle flexed,
All that contained him started to unfold

In front of him, a moving book
In three dimensions he could wander through,
At will, at any point, now, since, before,
To feel, to listen and to look—
A house, or suite
Of rooms around a circling corridor,
And waiting there, he knew,
Were all the peopled days he’d not repeat.

Slowly he stretched his hand to open
The first door on his right. Why, this was easy:
Christmas when he was seven, and his aunt
Playing a polonaise by Chopin,
Badly. “Lenore,
We know you think you can, dear, but you can’t.”
And he was resting, queasy
From too much pudding. Now, another door:

So far, so faint, not yet an I,
A pulse of sense, he hung upon a web
Of knitted blood. Above, the muffled heart
Performed its mindless lullaby
And in the womb
He slept on half awake. That was his part
Elsewhere, too, at the ebb
Of his last consciousness. Another room:

He recognized at once the face
Of one who five years hence he would have bound
As closely to him as a Siamese twin.
How recklessly he would replace
That loving care.
Absorbed, now, in the dream of skin on skin,
He whispered the profound
And destined promises she’d never share.

He shuddered, shut it, and proceeded.
So room on room, all of his scenes, arranged
In simultaneous succession, played
Before him, unignored, unheeded,
Each a tableau
Vivant and drama, driven and yet stayed,
Developing, unchanged.
At last the time that paused for time to flow

He saw was coming to an end.
He saw himself before himself, distinct
As when—a life ago—it came to him
A single blink could comprehend,
And then unfold,
All time within that countless interim.
He blinked. And then he blinked.
And time continued as it coiled, on hold.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2010)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

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The House of Time

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