On the Pleasures of Gilbert (Part 1)

By Jack Gilbert

For eleven years I have regretted it,
regretted that I did not do what
I wanted to do as I sat there those
four hours watching her die. I wanted
to crawl in among the machinery
and hold her in my arms, knowing
the elementary, leftover bit of her
mind would dimly recognize it was me
carrying her to where she was going.


On the Pleasures of Mahon (Part 3)

By Derek Mahon

The prisoners of infinite choice
Have built their house
In a field below the wood
And are at peace.

It is autumn, and dead leaves
On their way to the river
Scratch like birds at the windows
Or tick on the road.

Somewhere there is an afterlife
Of dead leaves,
A stadium filled with an infinite
Rustling and sighing.

Somewhere in the heaven
Of lost futures
The lives we might have lived
Have found their own fulfilment.

On the Pleasures of Mahon (Part 2)

By Derek Mahon

Nobody steps into the same river twice.
The same river is never the same
Because that is the nature of water.
Similarly your changing metabolism
Means that you are no longer you.
The cells die, and the precise
Configuration of the heavenly bodies
When she told you she loved you
Will not come again in this lifetime.

You will tell me that you have executed
A monument more lasting than bronze;
But even bronze is perishable.
Your best poem, you know the one I mean,
The very language in which the poem
Was written, and the idea of language,
All these things will pass away in time.

On the Pleasures of Mahon (Part 1)

By Derek Mahon

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

On the Necessity of Virtue

There are days when just getting out of bed constitutes a supreme act of courage.

And there are times when recognizing such an act of courage constitutes a rare act of compassion.

These are the pedestrian virtues of postmodern life.

Where would we all be without the pedestrian virtues?

On the Variability of Time

There is a secret bond between slowness and memory,
between speed and forgetting.

A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him.
Automatically, he slows down.
Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace,
as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time.
The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory;
the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.

From Milan Kundera’s SLOWNESS

I’ve forgotten almost everything I’ve read in Milan Kundera’s novels, except the notion above about slowness. (Even then I remembered it inaccurately; I always thought the relation was between slowness and thought, rather than slowness and memory.)

I’m sure there are countless thought experiments and studies out there (literary, neurological, philosophical, psychological) that examine the relationships between our experience of time and our quality of life. The majority converge on the following conclusion: a life frantically and frenetically lived is hardly a life at all. These days, what it takes to escape time is to escape place (very often, what we truly mean when we say we want to “get away” is that we want to slow things down; time never passes at the same pace everywhere; the city and the country inhabit not just different time zones but different time velocities.)

Right now, I just. want. to. slow. things. down.

So that I can watch the steam curl above a cup of coffee, hear the spaces between heartbeats, taste the shift of dark chocolate from sweet to bitter, smell the rain before it falls, and feel the texture of my life as it slips merrily from one moment to another.

Just little things really. The kinds of things that you can only savor with the slow kind of time.