Lent 23: The Present

Michael Donaghy was an Irish American poet who sadly died aged just fifty in 2004. His first two collections, Shibboleth and Errata are now sadly out of print. Some of his more recent collections are not, and there is also his Collected Poems.

I like poems which state an obvious fact in an original or moving way. This is what he has to say about harpsichords and cyclists:

“Who only by moving can balance, / Only by balancing move.”

And this poem, from Shibboleth, is about distance and the speed of light:

      The Present

      For the present there is just one moon,
      though every level pond gives back another.

      But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,
      perceived by astrophysicist and lover,

      is milliseconds old. And even that light’s
      seven minutes older than its source.

      And the stars we think we see on moonless nights
      are long extinguished. And, of course,

      this very moment, as you read this line,
      is literally gone before you know it.

      Forget the here-and-now. We have no time
      but this device of wantoness and wit.

      Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
      and we’ll live out our lives in it.

View the intro/roundup.

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