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



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).