TIME PASSES TIME

by Anne Carson

copyright ©2013 by Anne Carson

TIME PASSES TIME does not pass. Time all but passes. Time usually passes. Time passing and gazing. Time has no gaze. Time as perseverance. Time as hunger. Time in a natural way. Time when you were six the day a mountain. Mountain time. Time I don’t remember. Time for a dog in an alley caught in the beam of your flashlight. Time not a video. Time as paper folded to look like a mountain. Time smeared under the eyes of the miners as they rattle down into the mine. Time if you are bankrupt. Time if you are Prometheus. Time if you are all the little tubes on the roots of a gorse plant sucking greenish black moistures up into new scribbled continents. Time it takes for the postal clerk to apply her lipstick at the back of the post office before the supervisor returns. Time it takes for a cow to tip over. Time in jail. Time as overcoats in a closet. Time for a herd of turkeys skidding and surprised on ice. All the time that has soaked into the walls here. Time between the little clicks. Time compared to the wild fantastic silence of the stars. Time for the man at the bus stop standing on one leg to tie his shoe. Time taking Night by the hand and trotting off down the road. Time passes oh boy. Time got the jump on me yes it did.

Notes on the Poem

Anne Carson gathers words and effects in a potent combination in the "TIME PASSES TIME" section of her book-length poem (sometimes described as a verse-novel), Red Doc>. What impact does this have on readers? Repetition, chiefly of the word "time", acts as intensifier, mantra, chant, chorus - almost dizzying at times. There are interesting refrains and linkages, such as the multiple appearances of mountains from different perspectives and in different forms. Carson travels rapidly through many ways of experiencing, considering or framing time, from whimsy and humour: "Time for a herd of turkeys skidding and surprised on ice." ... to fear and trepidation, from a startling encounter with a dog in a dark alley to miners heading - perhaps wearily, perhaps with trepidation - underground, to despair, with the abrupt: "Time in jail." to unquestioning, perhaps oblivious joy: "Time when you were six" Again, the effect is dizzying. Like much of Red Doc>, the words in this section are compressed into a constrained and somewhat awkwardly (but very much by design) formatted text column. The full left and right justification stretches words and spacing in ways that are on one hand more difficult to read, but on the other hand, seem to highlight words in new and perhaps revelatory ways. "All the time that has soaked into the walls here." ... is one particular phrase that could be read as either comforting or depressing, just as the overall effect of this section could be soothing or increasingly producing anxiety and angst.

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