Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Our Numbered Days

You never know when or where Death will strike. Fact. Truth, uncompromising. When it will come all of a sudden - 'the instant hand of Death/always ready to burst forth/from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak,' knocking routine senseless, forcing us to re-evaluate our life, and specifically, the living of it. The mere contemplation of it lends a new radiance to the most ordinary things - 'full of marvels' - as Billy Collins so deftly demonstrates here in this poem.

And despite the flippant tone of it, the message in this poem is sombre, severely clear. A reminder we must always keep at the forefront of our numbered days.

Picnic, Lightning - Billy Collins

It is possible to be struck by a meteor
or a single-engine plane
while reading in a chair at home.
Safes drop from rooftops
and flatten the odd pedestrian
mostly within the panels of the comics,
but still, we know it is possible,
as well as the flash of summer lightning,
the thermos toppling over,
spilling out on the grass.

And we know the message
can be delivered from within.
The heart, no valentine,
decides to quit after lunch,
the power shut off like a switch,
or a tiny dark ship is unmoored
into the flow of the body’s rivers,
the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.

This is what I think about
when I shovel compost
into a wheelbarrow,
and when I fill the long flower boxes,
then press into rows
the limp roots of red impatiens–
the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth
from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.

Then the soil is full of marvels,
bits of leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam.
Then the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue,
the clouds a brighter white,

and all I hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone,
the small plants singing
with lifted faces, and the click
of the sundial
as one hour sweeps into the next.

1 comment:

  1. Either your run the day, or the day runs you.


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