How Time Moves
New and Selected Poems
by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Meadowlark Press, 2020. Paperback: 326 pages, 978-1-7342477-2-5
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How Time Moves: New and Selected Poems brings together over 30 years of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg's explorations of what it means to be human in a particular place, time, body, history, and story. "She is our teacher speaking from the sky, from the field, from the heartland," writes Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford of this stirring new collection. "Like William Blake’s 'doors of perception,' these pages lead readers inward and outward at once," Denise Low, past poet laureate of Kansas, says of the new poems. The collection also includes poetry from Mirriam-Goldberg's previous six collections: Following the Curve, Chasing Weather, Landed, Animals in the House, Reading the Body, and Lot's Wife.
"In How Time Moves, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg offers us a magical gift: a compilation of new and selected poems, rich with memory and meaning. 'Expect to be startled,' the poet tells us. And we are," writes poet Joy Roulier Sawyer. Poet Patricia Traxler adds, "This is the real work of a poet--to see and speak the often-hidden truths of a human life in a way that enlightens and informs." Poet Diane Suess points out that "True to its title, time is a paramount issue in these poems—not simply its passing, but its potential, in complicity with imagination, to invent and resurrect the future."
Echoing through all the poems in this book, Mirriam-Goldberg illuminates how to live with greater meaning, vitality, and joy. As she writes in the introduction:
The humming is everywhere, those rhythms of one place or another unfolding where and who we truly are. Of course, we don't just inhabit place: we live in time, a human construct of how we order the world as well as the ecological ground of how seasons shift, weather migrates, and the cycles of birth, age, death, and renewal unfurl. I used to think I was primarily writing about place until it occurred to me that my poetry constantly grapples with what time is and how it moves. Like all of us, I live in the place called time, and that place—a field within the field—is dizzingly diverse and deep, made of stories and histories, callings and yearnings, hard-won wisdom and pure mystery. What does it mean to live in time? I circle around the fire of that question through my poems, gravitating toward what light and heat I glimpse.
Here are some of the new poems from How Time Moves:
At the edge of the yard somewhere in Lithuania,
she takes it all in: the white bark of the forest,
the dark vertical shadows, the tall field between here
and horizon. Wind rises from the banks
of trees and rushes everywhere, reminding her
to lift her chest, inhale sharply, remember.
Who will come after her, and then what?
Will the grasses part the same way in tomorrow's weather,
the leaves sing their breaking song, the air hold
the weight of the world evenly around each being?
Is she the first or the last to hear the ending world?
From years ahead, I wait for her to turn into the future.
When she does, her face catches the late light,
and she sees me, sitting cross-legged on a wooden floor
in Kansas. What is there to say from there to here
that would help? A cow walks through a parking lot,
a peacock screams, all of us far from oceans, wars,
the urgency of living in a world on the cusp of vanishing.
My great-grandmother doesn't know she will die
in that very spot facing away from soldiers and fire.
How most of this village will face the gun or the gas chamber,
quickly or slowly in the camps or holes in the ground,
little space to think the best, last thought.
The air she exhales falls off the earth, like the sun
tonight and every night. Her surviving children
will spread like water on hard ground that softens over time,
so far from her view at the edge of the yard.
All she knows is the cleansing light of the wind,
the moment her life balances before her,
the way love can shelter itself as a dark bird not-so-hidden
in the birches, ready to exhale from the leaves
that keep remaking themselves and the breath
from her body that will one day be my body.
No One Tells You What to Expect
A downpour as you're running down Massachusetts Street
in sandals that keep falling off in unexpected puddles.
Ice on power lines. The dying who won't die,
then a single bluebird dead in your driveway.
The deadline or lost check spilling the orderly papers.
The part that isn't made anymore for the carburetor,
or the sudden end of chronic sinus infections
while walking a parking lot unable to find the car.
Your best thinking won't be enough to save your daughter
from a bad romance or your friend from leaving the man
she'll regret leaving. Across town, in a quiet gathering
of maples, someone drops to her knees in such sadness
that even the hummingbirds buzz through unnoticed.
The dog gone for days returns wet and hungry,
the phone call reports the CT scan is negative,
and your husband brings you a tiny strawberry,
the first or the last, growing in your backyard.
Life will right itself on the water when the right rocks
come along, so let the bend tilt you toward
what comes next: the bottoms that fall out,
the shoes that drop, the wrong email sent
while a cousin you lost touch with decades ago
calls, his voice as familiar as the smell of pot roast.
All the songs you love will return like an old cat.
Expect to be startled.