Author’s Note: I wrote this poem in Auckland in 2009 however it is based on an encounter I had in Adelaide a few days prior. (There are a lot of mussels served in Auckland, incidentally.) The theme here is pretty obvious; it’s about an encounter, or, more precisely, an event, during which time compressed itself almost to a standstill. You have probably had this experience if you have been knocked of your bicycle by a car or something like that. When this happens over a half-hour, that’s a bit of a different guy.
This is one of my favorite poems that I have written. The title, and the repeating coda, are borrowed from the band The Silver Jews.
The quality of experience in half hours
is not uniform.
Some half hours are simply wasted;
in others, something occurs,
leads into something else.
“Half hours on earth/ what are they worth?/ I don’t know”
With the occasional half hour
something actually happens,
(in the Raymond Carver sense)
something that matters.
The air is charged, and thin;
butterflies roil one’s viscera;
and something is on the line.
“Half hours on earth/ what are they worth?”
These electric half hours
even if isolated in time
are frightening, or better
giddily upsetting, and dangerous.
They sear themselves into the memory,
rippling the fabric of the universe.
“Half hours on earth”
Dedication: For Molly. And for David Berman, RIP.