by Charles Thomas
Isaiah 61: 1,2
Now reads like new breath in old lungs,
Like a streetlamp’s flicker, an interruption,
A transitory break in tandem, hinting of another
Perpetually. Perhaps now is nothing more than
A vagrant, the wandering Jew, or a mother’s device
For training her brood.
I’m sure if asked, the mother would explain
Now as being between here and there,
Intercessory, seen only in a clock
Or a bust of Janus perhaps,
But heard only in a pause between tic and toc.
And now takes many forms, I suppose,
Just as my here is your there,
And your there my here, or in any place,
But it would be wrong to say it is intangible.
For now was where I first found favor,
First it came in the warmth of my mother
Pressed against my cheek,
And the taste of flour from her apron.
Later I heard it in the polemics of lovers
Young and old, resolved and unresolved,
As well as in the murmur of the river
Wrapped in gifts of all seasons:
The energy of spring, a solace in summer, fall colors,
And the ether of winter settled among the stones therein.
I began to seek that favor among the old hands,
Shouldered the sun in ruts for an eight-hour load,
Carried with me the scent of heaven unto dusk
To show my children the narrow road
Is a trail that smells of brush and musk.
I’ve wrung that favor from my shirt as an ablution
On behalf of every roughneck, grease monkey,
Mill-hand, and pot-top of any shade,
And have lifted my hands to the footfalls
Of old boots, predawn alarms, and rhythms made
By the hammer’s fall, the wrecking ball, and the hacksaw’s blade.
Soon I became weary, however, and broken,
Bent doubled as if to inspect my soles,
There for a time I had lost the year’s favor
But soon found it again. This time,
It came in wool thrown over my shoulders,
Fine tobacco, rain on a tin roof,
And in visits from my children and theirs.
It made light of me in mirrors,
In the shop windows, and pulled
My wrist toward the primordial question
If you asked me, I would tell you
Now is the chemistry of the tapeworm of time
With properties of all wholes and parts
Reading of every extreme in sonnets, ballads, free verse and rhyme,
But stilled only by a blind man’s dart.
My now is not yours,
But neither is it wholly mine.
Rather it is the proscenium
Of an open book, every page
An act, a scene, a line, a stage
Or to disappoint.
But it is yours after all,
At any rate, and vulnerable,
Stripped bare, and unvarnished
To absorb the light of many rooms
In many places along many streets
That vein many cities
Founded in some now without color.
My now? My now is here and obscure
Much like it was, and much like it’ll be, I’m sure,
But at least it is here.