Poem Review: Time

The world view on time has always been multi-dimensional. Along the identity question ‘who am I?’, the question ‘what is time’ is a topic of eternal search.

In this review, we shall explore two dimensions of time through the lens of two poems.

The first poem takes a philosophical view of time, while the second plays on a scientific dimension, expanding a classic paradox, called the Schrodinger’s cat.

One might argue that the Schrodinger’s cat experiment is about quantum mechanics, but not essentially about time. But a fairly read physics enthusiast will relate time with quantum mechanics quickly.

Time and ‘state’ of an object are intertwined. Time is always measured in a relative context, and exists between the observer and observed.

“Time and space are modes by which we think and not conditions in which we live.” — Albert Einstein

As much as time is seen as an external concept, measured and reminded by clocks, our own illusions create these concepts within ourselves. Only that we agreed to view certain things the same way.

“When forced to summarize the general theory of relativity in one sentence: Time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from matter.” — Albert Einstein

Keeping side the genius of Albert Einstein, it is most appropriate to consider time as a matter of the mind, and therefore, a poetic and philosophical interpretation of time is a good ingredient in this melting pot of a review.

Having established the raison d’être of this review, I shall proceed to dive deep into these two wonderful poems.

As a part of my new review approach, the poet’s introduction is at the end. Let us get on with the poems.

Poem 1: ‘Regret of Time’

This poem has been authored by E.J. Rose, a soulful poet that I have grown to admire. Here is the poem.

Regret of time. Pic Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/users/MAamirNaqvi9-1690503/

Regret of Time

Time slipping like grains of sand
Through clenched fingers it seeps from hand
It will not wait nor can I slow
Please, I still don’t know which way to go
So much waste and none to spare
It passes me as I’m not even there
Foolishly chasing the clock
Naive that opportunity will knock
A silent door and a withered shell
A trial run or already hell
I should have chased my dream
Life was just a moment, it scarily did seem
~E.J.R

Commentary on Poem 1:

The poem has three hues of disappointment and frustration — poignancy, contrition and exasperation. It is important to understand the transposition of these feelings in different lines of the poem.

Time can act as a healer, but also a tormentor. It is hard to figure out time. No wonder that the poet feels this, literally, in his fist. ‘Time slips through his hand like grains of sand, even when he clenches his fingers’. In vividity, the desperation to ‘clench and hold’, and yet, the helplessness of it slipping away is felt.

The helplessness is amplified by the knowledge that ‘nor can I slow’, slowing down is an act he knows he cannot perform. And the reality that ‘time’ as measured by the humans is an one way street dawns on him. Time goes on, regardless. ‘It cannot wait’.

‘Please, I still I don’t know which way to go’.

The word,’please’, is beseeching. The helplessness now manifests into confusion, which in term feeds into the indecision. The awareness that time is slipping away brings in this confusion.

So much waste and none to spare
It passes me as I’m not even there
Foolishly chasing the clock
Naive that opportunity will knock

The awareness expands further. Time, if not use properly, is so much waste. We are aware that we cannot return it to the bank. If you waste, there is ‘none to spare’. Time is fickle and miserly. It seems to be everything you don’t want it to be.

Time is haughty as well. It turns out that it does not give two hoots about my existence. ‘It passes me as I am not even there’. Even though I know all these about Father Time, I am ‘foolish and naive’, ‘chasing the clock’ and waiting for the ‘opportunity’ to ‘knock’.

A silent door and a withered shell
A trial run or already hell
I should have chased my dream
Life was just a moment, it scarily did seem

There was no knock on the door of the waiting poet. ‘Silent door’ indicates the dearth of opportunities because the poet has been waiting. As he waits, his body (withered shell) withers succumbing to the ravages of time.

Further, even if it for a ‘trial run’, as an experiment, or ‘already hell’, a bad experience, the poet feels remorseful that he has not tried enough. ‘ I should have chased by dream’ he ruminates. The entire life has passed in his front of eyes like a blur. ‘ Life was just a moment, it scarily did seem’.

Wow. That is a feeling like you got off the train in a station, and the train leaves the train in a whiff, leaving behind a trail of memories and silence.

I cannot help but recall Haruki Murakami’s quote.

“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

Understanding time is the second biggest challenge after figuring out one’s own identity. Life is an one way street with a dead end. And the street has a finite length. So as we move from towards the dead end, memories and regrets build.

Let us rotate the crystal mirror to another plane. The whole concept of time is now between the ‘observer’ and the ‘observed’.

Poem 2: ‘Wren’

‘Wren’ is a poem authored by Murray Alfredson. Here goes the poem.

Wren: Pic Courtesy: https://pixabay.com/users/auzz33-1337830/

‘Wren’

From the underbrush

then and now

like pins or tiny razors,

his twitters pierce

the creek-bed stillness

deep in the ravine.

Do I in

just splits of moments

glimpse in leafage-gaps

a fleck of blue.

Unconsciously he teases;

side-glanced colour-flicker

but never when I look.

Pictured by mind’s eye

in dainty elegance,

disembodied voice?

And drab wren-dam?

Twig- or bird-twitch?

Wren pair there?

Commentary on Poem 2:

Time is the fourth dimension, which along with the three dimensional space, make the warped ‘landscape’ of the universe. Now, for the physics enthusiasts, defining and relating time at the atomic level has been a challenge.

During the early 20th century, time has taken a completely different ‘shape’, and has been interpreted along with space and matter by renowned physicists like Einstein, Schrodinger, Podolsky, Rosen et al.

We need to understand the space and the ‘actor’, before we understand the ‘event’, and therefore the derivation of ‘time’.

The event is about how a ‘wren pair’ behaves. Let us start with them.

What are wrens?

Wrens are a family of brown passerine birds in the predominantly New World family Troglodytidae. The family includes 88 species divided into 19 genera. Only the Eurasian wren occurs in the Old World, where, in Anglophone regions, it is commonly known simply as the “wren”, as it is the originator of the name. The name wren has been applied to other, unrelated birds, particularly the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae) and the Australian wrens (Maluridae).

The world of wren is interesting. They are secretive, hop in and out, hide and pop in the thickets or ‘underbrush’.

This brings us to the place of the ‘event’. The place is important, as this builds on the context setting.

creek-bed stillness

deep in the ravine

The scene of the poem is a deep ravine in a creek. The stillness brings the concept of time to an absolute frame. Let us now peer into the ravine and see what happens.

From the underbrush

then and now

like pins or tiny razors,

his twitters pierce

The wren jumps in and out, visible once here and there, like a blip in the corner of the eye, and ‘pierces’ the stillness and the silence of the ravine through its ‘twitters’.

Look at it as the slicing of time. Like the tiktok of a clock. The concept of slicing the continuum, like sampling, goes back to creating ripples of sound waves traveling through the ether of silence. Each tweet is a sample. Creation of a digital mark on an analogous realm.

So, we have so far explored the space and the event. The actor, the wren, is the observed. Now, time to introduce the observer ( the audience), the poet. Now, the poem brings all of them together.

Do I in

just splits of moments

glimpse in leafage-gaps

a fleck of blue.

The poet catches a ‘glimpse’ of the wren, ‘in fleck of blue, just in split of moments’. And it is a question, as he is not sure. ‘ Do I see it, in the leafage gaps?’, he asks himself.

Imagine the sound and the sight of the wrens, with a small dash of blue, and tweets, tripping the silence and the stillness of the ravine. One moment, they are there, and another moment they are gone. And a tweet here, and a tweet there.

Where will you look for them next? We are not sure. They could be anywhere.

Unconsciously he teases;

side-glanced colour-flicker

but never when I look.

It is a tease, isn’t it?

Not being able to locate the birds, either by sight or by sound. The observed is behaving normally. But the observer is teased. The ‘color-flicker’ happens at the corner of the eye, ‘side glanced’, but does not appear ‘when he looks’.

The wren is not aware of being observed by the poet. It seems however, to the poet that it is playing hide and seek with him.

Pictured by mind’s eye

in dainty elegance,

disembodied voice?

And drab wren-dam?

Twig- or bird-twitch?

Wren pair there?

The mystery of the random appearances could be actually an image formed by the mind’s eye. The mind tries to predict the next move of the wren.

The small ‘dainty’ bird is elegant with ‘disembodied voice’, its tweets. Or it a boring random event? ( drab wren-dam). Did the poet mistake the ‘twitch’ — which was from a ‘twig‘ ’rather than the ‘bird’?

The little bird, wren has played with the mind of the poet for sometime now. The paradox of elegance vs drabness clearly leaves the poet ruminating about the event at multiple levels — including the numbers ( Wren pair there?)- if there were one or two wrens.

This last stanza opens up the possibility of simultaneous states of the wren in the poet’s mind. The location, the randomness, the numbers, the observed ( twig vs wren) does create a case for Schrodinger’s cat. Till we see, we do not know where the wren is. Add to this, the melee in the mind.

That is why this poem, ‘Wren’ is actually more than the Schrodinger’s cat, and where the two poems connect. As the poet tries to figures out wren’s acts ( the events), we enter the poet’s mind. And in the mind, we also discover the philosophical dimension.

Time Connects

Time is a concept between the observer and the observed. It does not operate independent of them. More precisely, it is a concept in the mind of the observer.

That is when the word ‘past’ makes sense. Past precedes the event, and the observer is always seeing the past. So in a snapshot, the observed is a memory at some point( unseen to the observer, as he sees the event in the future), while the observer sees it as present ( to be seen by the observer is a future event of the observed).

On a philosophical plane, memories (life or experiences of the past) and emotions regarding the memories ( regret), meet the observed ( past event).

If you notice, the connecting concept is time. Time connects the past with the present, and the present with the future.

And time is a concept of the mind. Memories are lingering elements of a past observed event, and regret the emotions out of it.

So how can the observer, you and me, can make sense of time? Only present make sense.

Anything you see outside, as you scan across the universe, the sights and the sounds, have already happened. And you cannot change that.

So where is present? It is ‘within’. You are the present. The observer, You. That is what even Theory of Relativity says. How do you process the past? Within.

So what is future? Future is how you respond to the event. The observer’s response to the ‘past’ is the future.

So what does Time have to say about all these?

Live the moment. That is the truth. It is present. It is a gift.

~ Ashok Subramanian

Copyrights and italicized words of the poems belong to the Poets. Rights Acknowledged.

Biography

Poet E. J. Rose

E.J. Rose is a poet I have grown to admire on Linkedin. He is a reclusive poet, and his works can be read here. https://ejrose2k20online.wordpress.com/. He just published his poetry anthology ‘ Star Shadows’.

Poet Murray Alfredson

Murray Alfredson’s wordplay intrigued me. I took almost two months — going back and forth, to make sense of ‘Wren’, and connect with my own review framework. I hope to discover more of Murray in the coming reviews.

He is from Adelaide, Australia. Here is a blurb from his Linkedin Profile.

Murray Alfredson is a former librarian, lecturer in librarianship and Buddhist Associate in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy at Flinders University. He has published essays on Buddhist meditation and on inter-faith relations in Theravada, The middle way, In the round, and Eremos; and poems, poetry translations and essays on poetics in Ashvamegh (India), Awakenings review (USA), Cadenza (UK), Dawn treader (UK), Eremos, Friendly Street Reader, 2009, 2010 & 2013, The independent weekly (Adelaide), Knots magazine (USA), Manifold (UK), Mediterranean poetry (Sweden), Melaleuca, NSW School magazine, Ocean (USA), Orbis (UK), Overland, PanGaia (USA), Platform, Poets ink review (USA), Recovering the self (USA), San Pedro River review, Shalla (USA), Studio, Touch, the journal of healing (USA), Touch poetry (USA), Umbrella(USA), Ygrdrasil (Canada), in anthologies in Australia, the USA and the UK, and a short collection, ‘Nectar and light’, in Friendly Street new poets, 12, Adelaide: Friendly Street Poets and Wakefield Press, 2007. He has a second collection: The gleaming clouds. Brisbane: Interactive Press, 2013. He is currently a joint editor of the Friendly Street Poets anthology for 2016, and a senior editor for Ashvamegh.

He has won a High Beam poetry award 2004, the Poetry Unhinged Multicultural Poetry Prize 2006, the Friendly Street Poets Political poetry prize 2009, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2009 and again in 2012..

He lives on the Fleurieu Peninsula by Gulf St Vincent in South Australia.

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Ashok Subramanian

A poetic mind. Imagines characters, plots. Loves Philosophy, Literature and Science. Poetry-Short Stories-Novels- Poetry Reviews-Book Reviews