“The Purpose of Time is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once” by X.J. Kennedy

Suppose your life a folded telescope
Durationless, collapsed in just a flash
As from your mother’s womb you, bawling, drop
Into a nursing home. Suppose you crash
Your car, your marriage — toddler laying waste
A field of daisies, schoolkid, zit-faced teen
With lover zipping up your pants in haste
Hearing your parents’ tread downstairs — all one.

Einstein was right. That would be too intense.
You need a chance to preen, to give a dull
Recital before an indifferent audience
Equally slow in jeering you and clapping.
Time takes its time unraveling. But, still,
You’ll wonder when your life ends: Huh? What happened?

“The Purpose of Time is to Prevent Everything from Happening at Once,” by X.J. Kennedy from The Lords of Misrule: Poems, 1992-2001, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2002.

“What Do I Care” by Sara Teasdale

What do I care, in the dreams and the languor of spring,
That my songs do not show me at all?
For they are a fragrance, and I am a flint and a fire,
I am an answer, they are only a call.

But what do I care, for love will be over so soon,
Let my heart have its say and my mind stand idly by,
For my mind is proud and strong enough to be silent,
It is my heart that makes my songs, not I.

 

“What Do I Care” by Sara Teasdale from Flame and Shadow

“When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” by Chen Chen

To be a good
ex/current friend for R. To be one last

inspired way to get back at R. To be relationship
advice for L. To be advice

for my mother. To be a more comfortable
hospital bed for my mother. To be

no more hospital beds. To be, in my spare time,
America for my uncle, who wants to be China

for me. To be a country of trafficless roads
& a sports car for my aunt, who likes to go

fast. To be a cyclone
of laughter when my parents say

their new coworker is like that, they can tell
because he wears pink socks, see, you don’t, so you can’t,

can’t be one of them. To be the one
my parents raised me to be—

a season from the planet
of planet-sized storms.

To be a backpack of PB&J & every
thing I know, for my brothers, who are becoming

their own storms. To be, for me, nobody,
homebody, body in bed watching TV. To go 2D

& be a painting, an amateur’s hilltop & stars,
simple decoration for the new apartment

with you. To be close, J.,
to everything that is close to you—

blue blanket, red cup, green shoes
with pink laces.
To be the blue & the red.
The green, the hot pink.

 
 

Chen Chen, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities” from When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.  Copyright © 2017 by Chen Chen.  BOA Editions, Ltd., http://www.boaeditions.org.

“Teenager” by Wislawa Szymborska

Me — a teenager?
If she suddenly stood, here, now, before me,
would I need to treat her as near and dear,
although she’s strange to me, and distant?

Shed a tear, kiss her forehead
for the simple reason
that we share a birthdate?

So many dissimilarities between us
that only the bones are likely still the same,
the cranial vault, the eye sockets.

Since her eyes seem a little larger,
her eyelashes are longer, she’s taller
and the whole body is closely sheathed
in smooth, unblemished skin.

Relatives and friends still link us, it is true,
but in her world almost all are living,
while in mine almost no one survives
from that shared circle.

We differ so profoundly,
talk and think about completely different things.
She knows next to nothing —
but with a doggedness deserving better causes.
I know much more —
but nothing for sure.

She shows me poems,
written in a clear and careful script
that I haven’t used for years.

I read the poems, read them.
Well, maybe that one
if it were shorter
and fixed in a couple of places.
The rest are not encouraging.

“Teenager” by Wislawa Szymborska, Translated by Clare Cavanagh & Stanisław Barańczak, from Here, Mariner Books.