Thursday, November 24, 2011

How To Live, Part Thirteen: "Five Minutes"

As has always been the case, the World is going to Hell in a handbasket. Billions -- nay, trillions -- of Euros and Dollars are discussed in emergency conclaves.  As if they were real.  As if they were a matter of Life and Death. Eleventh hour solutions that are not really solutions are proclaimed. Meanwhile . . .

          Five Minutes at the Window

A boy, in loops and straights, skateboards
down the the street.  In number 20
a tree with lights for flowers
says it's Christmas.

The pear tree across the road shivers
in a maidenly breeze.  I know
Blackford Pond will be
a candelabra of light.

A seagull tries over and over again
to pick up something on the road.
Oh, the motorcars.
And a white cat sits halfway up a tree.

Trivia.  What are trivia?
They've blown away my black mood.
I smile at the glass of freesias on the table.
My shelves of books say nothing
but I know what they mean.
I'm back in the world  again
and am happy in spite of
its disasters, its horrors, its griefs.

Ewen McCaig (editor), The Poems of Norman MacCaig (Polygon 2005). MacCaig wrote the poem in January of 1991, when he was eighty.

                Osmund Caine (1914-2004), "Washing at No. 25, Kingston"

There is, of course, another way to look at things . . .

                     Five Minutes

'I'm having five minutes,' he said,
Fitting the shelter of the cobble wall
Over his shoulders like a cape.  His head
Was wrapped in a cap as green
As the lichened stone he sat on.  The winter wind
Whined in the ashes like a saw,
And thorn and briar shook their red
Badges of hip and haw;
The fields were white with smoke of blowing lime;
Rusty iron brackets of sorel stood
In grass grey as the whiskers round an old dog's nose.
'Just five minutes,' he said;
And the next day I heard that he was dead,
Having five minutes to the end of time.

Norman Nicholson, The Pot Geranium (1954).

                     Osmund Caine, "The Hoby Effigies, Bisham Church"


James Russell said...

Lovely poems, wonderfully complemented by the paintings. I rather like the idea of life ending with a five-minute rest!

Mary F. C. Pratt said...

This blog is one of the things I'm thankful for today.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mr Russell: thank you for stopping by again, and for the kind words. I hadn't thought of the Nicholson poem that way, but I believe that you are on to something: maybe it is not such a bad a way to go, looking out over the fields!

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary F. C. Pratt: I'm left scrambling for an appropriate way to express my appreciation for your kind thoughts. I'm afraid that the best that I can do is say "thank you" in return: both for your words, and for finding your way back here so often. I hope that you will have a wonderful holiday.

Anonymous said...

Here is a quote from Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman-philosopher, that seems apropos to your opening comments:

"One wonders whether a generation that demands instant satisfaction of all its needs and instant solution of the world's problems will produce anything of lasting value."

I have been a reader of your blog since you began it and owe you my thanks for the delight that it brings.

Tim G

Stephen Pentz said...

Tim: I greatly appreciate your kind words. And I thank you for your long-time presence!

Thank you as well for the quote from Eric Hoffer: it is right on the mark. I'm ashamed to say that I have not read Hoffer, but I have been meaning to. I keep coming across snippets of his writing -- yours being the most recent instance -- and I keep saying to myself that I need to read him.