Poetry Review: “Living at the End of Time” by Robert Bly

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

(photo by m.a.h. hinton)

The first snow of the year arrived here in the North Country. To our south and west come reports of 7 to 10 inches. But here it was just a dusting, a foretaste of the feast to come.

There are seasons to a year and seasons to a life. Each have their own beauties and pains, their own blessings and curses. Live long enough I suppose, and you will learn to appreciate and fear each after it own fashion.

My own bifurcated existence continues to keep me on my toes. By day (and some evenings) I am immersed in a world of technology. I troubleshoot computers, iPhones and iPads for a living (for two livings actually, since I have two jobs). It is a mechanical/concrete life of device triage and repair and tracking down software and system anomalies.

By night (most nights) I live in a world of poetry and nature and language and jazz.

It is a day divided: betwixt and between brain hemispheres and categories of time (the horizontal existence of chronos, and the vertical existence of kairos).

All human life in the end can be described by this dance between chronos and kairos. Paradoxical tensions give birth to human creativity. Our souls like the strings of a guitar it seems are tuned and played by the process of  this tension.

Here is a poem by Robert Bly on the dialectical nature of time and being human.



Living at the End of Time
There is so much sweetness in children’s voices,
And so much discontent at the end of day,
And so much satisfaction when a train goes by.


I don’t know why the rooster keeps crying,
Nor why elephants keep raising their trunks,
Nor why Hawthorne kept hearing trains at night.


A handsome child is a gift from God,
And a friend is a vein in the back of the hand,
And a wound is an inheritance from the wind.


Some say we are living at the end of time,
But I believe a thousand pagan ministers
Will arrive tomorrow to baptize the wind.


There’s nothing we need to do about John. The Baptist
Has been laying his hands on earth for so long
That the well water is sweet for a hundred miles.


It’s all right if we don’t know what the rooster
Is saying in the middle of the night, nor why we feel
So much satisfaction when a train goes by.


Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

Some say we are living at the end of time,
But I believe a thousand pagan ministers
Will arrive tomorrow to baptize the wind.

All poets in the end are, I suspect, mystics at heart. And all poetry, indeed all art, is born in thosekairotic moments when the infinite breaks into the mundane. When the created is kissed by the Creator.

Art at its best reminds us that we are not merely finite creatures struggling beneath the crushing weight of chronos. We were created imago dei. We have eyes to see the infinite and hearts that can dance and sing along to the music of heaven.



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