Why is it that the smallest hours are longest
when all is still and silent, and the mind
is loud, and its pronouncements are the strongest,
most passionate, and of the cruelest kind?
Those lowest-numbered hours, by darkness muffled,
like lifetimes pass—and leave the world changed
like lifetimes will. Familiar thoughts are shuffled,
in new and alien patterns re-arranged.
The highest-numbered years flit by like sparrows
through a hall and out the other side,
but instants, frozen, like the flight of arrows,
stand swift, stick still, suspended, petrified,
as if the narrow neck of time’s glass narrows
before the final grain has danced and died.
Do you remember
when I wrote you a poem?
And I took the sweep of your brow from the branch of the olive
and I took the curve of your nose from an ocean wave just before it collapsed
and I took cream of your skin from the ivory buttons of my jerkin.
But I worry in that way I sometimes do
and so today I went round and checked up on them
and now report back to you.
The rose in your cheek I took from a florist
who has since gone out of business
but possibly for unrelated reasons.
The stars in your eyes
I got from the only place to find stars
but their absence has caused several valuable shipments of cargo to go missing
and several generally reliable navigators have lost their lives at sea.
Your shell-like ear I
am forced to admit was in fact a shell.
I saw it once many years ago on an inhospitable stony beach,
and selfishly took it for my own, locked in the prison of my memory.
This theft only ever inconvenienced one soul
one very small soul
but I think it may have meant more to that soul than anything else I ever took meant to anyone at
And I am sorry.
The gold that is your hair
which I spun from the best-rate 24-karat
is not missed.
I am happy to say
the vault from which it was silently spirited
looks essentially the same
and its owner had never grown familiar with it.
I do not know where I found what I said about the look on your face.
I don’t think I could find something like it again
and it was only good fortune that I managed to get it into the poem at all.
For the loves of the world I hope I made that up.