Poem By Jonathan Galassi
You were in bed.
You heard your mother working in the kitchen.
It was still light, the birds were bickering,
the waterfall behind the house was falling.
Its rushing lulled you,
you loved the moment you lay in,
and you counted the time
from this instant
and put it away
to be lived on another night,
your wedding night or some other night
that needed all the luck,
all the saved-up minutes you could bring it.
Later you filled bottles in the stream
and dated them and stored them in a cupboard.
Months after, you retrieved them
to stare at what time had done.
You were eight, but already you knew
it was working on you,
each minute you passed through was gone.
You didn’t want to give up your old clothes.
You’d watch your mother wrap
your dresses in a box for another girl
and know that where their stripes and buttons went
what you’d lived in them followed.
But those minutes in bed,
minutes of utter safety,
you heard the water falling
and didn’t want it to fall.
You wanted to keep it,
you saved yourself that minute.
I don’t know if you still have it
or if you’ve had to spend it
on you or on me.
But I know you still save minutes
I used to think went unwatched
into our account in time
that allows no withdrawals.
You hold onto the slippers and letters,
things that are leaving, things we’ve left,
evidence we’re judged unfairly by.
You have the picture, you and Pam in blue
fishing in the stream below the pool,
staring back at the camera half-abashed.
Your jacket is still in the closet.
You never wear it,
you don’t even remember when you did,
but it’s here to testify
the picture doesn’t lie
—though the color’s different,
your hair is shorter now,
and the water in the pool
is long gone downstream.