A Short Treatise on Time

“There are days when the fear of death illuminates everything.”

          —Ted Kooser

I’m weary of bemoaning so many lost hours,   as if we ever had any choice other than a one-way ticket with a time-stamp securely in place,   like those issued for certain train journeys in Europe: use it by Sunday afternoon   or forfeit the ride.  Or when you buy a quart of milk and it sours sitting on its ass in your refrigerator because you forgot all about it, off doing other things   instead of eating breakfast.  Of course it’s an unfair deal and you would have hired a high-priced lawyer to negotiate the fine print,   but the gods never consulted you before forwarding your contractual obligations.   Now that death has switched positions from the distant dot at the horizon creeping up in the rear-view mirror   to hovering around the face you shave every morning, you find yourself often stranded on the autobahn of memory,   drunk on nostalgia’s exit ramp, which is not a good place to be; it’s a dangerous drug   that ironically promotes forgetfulness paving over potholes from the past.   Try remembering this instead: you didn’t understand much less appreciate   half of what you did with your youth; and you certainly wouldn’t have bothered   to watch rain fill the still surfaces of a dark pond with dozens of perfect circles.

Strip Club

Flesh is but part of what we desire, wandering among fellow husbands and lonely hearts in search of less hostile company to duplicate the girlfriend simulacrum purchased for forty minutes, like time on a parking meter.   I know the fact that I find so little offense in how we’ve spent the past hour is enough for some to feel seriously offended: admiring innocuously variable parts of female anatomy, the genuine athleticism that enables a brilliant landing from atop greased pole wearing seven-inch stiletto platform soles.   After all these times why is there still such secrecy?  Omerta! my friend keeps telling me sotto voce, like we’re planning to rob a bank or kidnap one of the girls.   You can almost taste the fecund smells in this place as I sip at my twenty dollar beer and notice my buddy has disappeared behind a black curtain in the back, while into his empty chair slides this buttery soft blond, a pastel Renoir nude, fifteen pounds overweight, her right hand’s red nail extensions digging into my thigh, she whispers deep into my ear, Don’t get too comfortable, dear.


I’d just opened a window to let in another glorious May day midway through a conversation with Anthony Clifton about how many more   credits would be required for him to graduate next May, when Kiera Tambara interrupted, minutes after a shower, her chestnut hair still a damp tango, wearing a tight purple   sundress without any straps that announced she was already halfway to a summer tan. She handed me her take-home final, sighed, that’s the last paper or examination   I will ever write for the rest of my life, twirled a blithe 180, and vanished from sight leaving my office smelling like a candy shop. Anthony continued to plod the road   towards graduation, when I suggested we ought to give pause.  When a spring tornado descends on Kansas or Oklahoma what do you think the people in those places say   once they realize it has gone away leaving  them alive another day? Mr. Clifton lifted his worried head, Perhaps I can take out another loan?

Tony Magistrale is Professor of English at the University of Vermont. He is the author of three books of poetry: “What She Says About Love” (Bordighera Press 2008), “The Last Soldiers of Love” (Literary Laundry 2012), and the most recently published “Entanglements” (Fomite 2013).