TIME PASSES TIME

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

This Poem of the Week selection is one of our favourites, so we're happily revisiting it. 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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