Tag Archives: time

Reflections on a Song by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson and Other Intervals Between Two Points in Time

Photograph by Jose Padua
Looking out
the kitchen
window in the
dim early evening
light I’m waiting
for the stray cat
in the back
yard to move
just scratch its
nose with its
paw or else
dash out between
gaps in the
run-down picket
fence when I
realize it’s not
a stray cat
I’m looking at
but a black flower
pot knocked over
on its side and
in that instant
I remember all
those years I lost
being obsessed
searching for meaning
in places where
there was none.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

On Remembering the Times and Forgetting the Burden of Days

Photo by Jose Padua
No one ever remembers the times you put the toilet seat down
after using the bathroom, those days when the weatherman
predicted to the exact inch the amount of snow that was going
to fall in the next day’s winter storm. They’ll remember if you
told them an upcoming movie was going to suck but only
if you remind them that back in 1948 you said, “No Orchids
for Miss Blandish
is going to suck, big time” or that in 1990
you said, “Let’s go see GoodFellas instead of Look Who’s
Talking Too
,” but you went ahead and saw Look Who’s Talking
, which pretty much put an end to your forty-two year
relationship. I remember warm spring mornings when I stepped
outside and the world felt blue and green and yellow and I felt
as if I could run a marathon but didn’t because I knew all the
beautiful blooming flowers would eventually make me sneeze
and make my eyes water so that at the end of the run I’d be sobbing
like a baby not because of the thrill of my accomplishments but
because of my stupid allergies. I remember being a boy and
seeing “FUK” spray painted on the wall of the bridge we were
driving over and laughing out loud when my Mom looked at me
and said “Oh, you’re laughing at that” and me not being able
to say it was the misspelling of the word Fuck and not the
word itself I was laughing at, even though the idea of someone,
especially my mother, thinking I was laughing at the word Fuck
was horrifying to me. And over the years I remember the people
who have lent me money or simply given generously to me with
alacrity their time and energy and support and the other varieties
of abstract assistance that keep one going during difficult times,
and although I have rarely ever been able to repay them with
anything in return, much less respond with humility and grace,
I have been able to tell them a funny story or two or lent pause
to days that needed pausing, and in those instances when my
story fails to make them laugh and the hiatuses I create are so
negligible in the space they make between then and now that
they neglect to forget what a bad friend and horrible deadbeat
I am, I offer to tickle them, which except on rare occasions is ample
distraction, and usually enough to get them to change the subject.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua.

Blonde on Blonde

Photograph by Jose Padua
What if the purpose of evolution
isn’t to move us
in a straight line
but in a circle,
so that we get better
and better until we reach
the far end of the parking lot,
after which we start to decline,
know less and less,
and feel sick earlier in the day
as we need more and more rest,
all of which tells us
it’s time for us to go away
because the universe has gotten tired
of our sorry asses?
What if human existence
is like a cocktail party
that goes from five to eight in the evening?
You have a few drinks
and stand around telling each other
about your new job with the company
that makes plastic paper clips,
or your managerial position at the store
that just opened in the big mall
by the interstate that so far
isn’t attracting as many customers
as the old mall
closer to downtown;
you gush about your child
who’s on the honor roll,
or, if you’re one of those people,
your new pet snake
and how many mice he eats per week.
After you’re done speaking about your lives,
you sigh, maybe make plans
to meet again sometime soon,
then go off to your separate homes, towns,
and existences until death
puts an end to everything.
But sometimes I wonder
if there’s more to it than that,
if there’s an existence that
survives beyond this,
though I’m not at all sure
about these things,
which I guess makes me an agnostic
or, according to some people,
an uncommitted asshole,
though I tend to avoid those
who are prone to making severe
proclamations and judgements.
I’m the guy who enjoys standing
at the window of the tallest
skyscraper in town,
looking out at the city below
and feeling that somehow
this is what it means to be alive,
that living means
always being on the verge,
on the edge,
with every day being
the moment before a long trip,
the hour before a wedding,
the year before war breaks out
and so many innocent people die
while the guilty get richer
and make jokes
and laugh about it
not because they have to
but because they can.
In the worst of times
apprehension fills the hours
like a man in a black suit
who sits in the corner
and never speaks
until he suddenly looks
over at you to say
that your time here is finished;
while in the best of times
you take in what’s left
of an ordinary day
and realize that
nothing we do
can ever really be ordinary,
and that on those nights
when we stay up well past the hour
of sinking ships and insincere promises,
we are great,
telling each other our secrets,
breathing in the sea salt air
and breathing it out again,
dedicating our lives to each other.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

Glenn Gould’s Search for Petula Clark

Sometimes when I think of Petula Clark
I think the planets have stopped spinning
around the sun. That all of space is still
as the universe takes a moment to catch
its breath and pay homage to the simple
perfect sound of her voice. So many kids
nowadays have no idea who Petula Clark is
or the power that Glenn Gould could wield
with the pure touch of his fingers on the piano
keys. So many of us think everything should
be easy. That pomegranates will appear
like everyday miracles in the produce aisle
near the entrance to the grocery store, that
love will suddenly rain down upon the young
like summer thunderstorms, leading them
to seek shelter before their clothes get too wet,
the atmosphere too electric, as logic and
proper grammar get lost among the swirling ions.
I think if Petula Clark had the power to raise
Glenn Gould from the dead she would, and
if Glenn Gould were alive and Petula Clark
dead, he would do the same for her. This is
how we take care of one another; this is how
each generation builds upon what the last
generation left behind. And maybe this is how
once again I’ll see everyone I’ve ever lost;
when stepping outside into spring rain I mix up
memory and space, mountain and the brittle
pages of an old book as stones roll down the
mountain slope and paper breaks apart between
my fingers. Thinking of what might have been,
I save every piece of paper and take my time
coming down from the mountain, believing
in the wisdom of taking the long way home.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

We Are Family and Other Ways of Approaching the Concept of Time

Photograph by Jose Padua
When my daughter says she has a presentation to do
for her junior high school science class on how the
chicken may be a direct descendent of the dinosaur
I tell her I have just the thing for her to include and
I dig up a quote from Werner Herzog that says “Look
into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity;
it is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity;
they are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish
creatures in the world” and I print it on a sheet of paper
which my daughter conveniently forgets on the dining
room table when she picks up her back pack and heads
out the door to go to school the following morning. And
so I sit and write this down because in my own way I
too am descended from dinosaurs, which means that
from the dinosaurs to the chickens we are all family,
gifted in various ways and degrees, and that through
the epochs, eras, and eons, we have come to this point
on this day with the sun shining over us and a million
and one paths ahead of us through the universe, creating
sweet distances from the rough, uncertain days of our birth.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

I Placed a Jar in North Carolina and Round It Was Upon a Hill

Photograph by Jose Padua
On a near ninety degree day last June on Ocracoke Island in North Carolina, I sat in our car reading the opening pages of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle while Julien slept in the back seat. We were parked in the lot by one of the beaches halfway up the island with the car running and the air conditioner on, and at that very moment Heather’s youngest sister, Sarah, was over on the beach getting married to her boyfriend Ryan. That’s where Heather and Maggie were, with Heather in the wedding and Maggie watching the proceedings.

Julien and I were in the car because we all knew that as soon as Julien saw Heather walking up the ramp to the beach in her bridesmaid’s dress, Julien would run right over to her and never let go and not care one bit that he was disrupting the ceremony. Young children are like that sometimes and, when you think of it, it’s a beautiful thing—to not care about propriety, ritual, and whatever specific reason led to this ceremony and the gathering that surrounds it. (Certainly, I’d welcome this sort of interruption more than the horrible noise of the fighter jets that sometimes appear in the sky over Ocracoke, performing some sort of exercise and disturbing the natural beauty of the place.)

On the other hand, ceremony has its own beauty as well, and this was an occasion where the beauty of the wedding had priority over the beauty of Julien’s impulsiveness. This was why as Sarah and Ryan were exchanging their vows, I was reading the reflection on death with which Knausgaard begins his epic, autobiographical novel. For some people—indeed, for a lot of people—if given the choice, this would be the last thing they’d choose.

Me, I can’t say that if we were sure Julien could be well behaved at the wedding that I wouldn’t still choose to stay in the car reading Knausgaard obsessing on death. Not that I didn’t want to see Sarah and Ryan’s wedding on the beach, which by all accounts was a tremendously beautiful ceremony, because I did. And it’s not that Knausgaard’s epic is an unequivocally great work—many friends whose opinion I respect find his books incredibly tedious and pretentious. But so much of the time the thing I most want to do is think about things, and to read about death and then reflect on the many subjects that it brings to mind is, for me, an effective way of dealing with the problem of time.

And, as soon as Julien fell asleep, that’s what I did. I read about death—about the heart, and how it stops, and how the blood stops flowing. How consciousness—at least as we know and understand it, ends. As sometimes happens when I think about these things, my mood becomes apologetic. I think about loose ends, all those stories and novels I never kept working on, all those people I never got back in touch with, as well as all those people I should have left behind much sooner. And when Maggie came back to the car because it was getting too hot for her standing outside in the sun during the wedding ceremony, I began to apologize to her.

“Maggie,” I said, “I’m sorry for all those times I’ve gotten mad.”

Because I do get mad regularly, and although I always apologize immediately afterwards, it never seems like I’ve apologized enough to make up for getting angry in the first place. Then I went on to apologize for anything else I thought I needed to apologize for.

“Maggie,” I said. “I’m sorry I fart so much.” Because I do fart a lot.

As always, Maggie said, “It’s fine, it’s fine!” and shook her head.

She is, I’m pretty sure, old enough to appreciate having a weird, older dad like me. Then she looked at the book I was reading and asked, “What’s it about?”

“Well,” I said, “it’s an autobiographical novel. And it goes on for several more books.”

“What’s interesting about it?” As is often the case whenever someone asks whether or not something is interesting, my answer was Proust. I told Maggie about that other autobiographical epic, Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past, even though I’ve never finished reading it. I’d told her about Proust before, and she’d even read little excerpts from his work in response to my giving Proust as the answer to all sorts of questions.

“This,” I explained, “is something like Proust. Except that Knausgaard is still alive. In fact, you can go meet him at a book signing. He always begins the little talk he gives by saying, ‘This book. Which is mine.’”

At this point Maggie knew I was just making things up again, and I also think that she’s at the age where she’s starting to appreciate the odd stories I tell off the top of my head sometimes, or the strange details and “facts” I present to her. Julien is far from this point, but I have reason to believe he’ll be there soon.

Just earlier that day, when I took him to the rest room while we were having lunch with Heather’s brother Jeff and his wife Laura, Julien looked to the wall and said “Dogfish.” He doesn’t read yet, but he saw the logo for Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware adorning the wall of the rest room, and he knew what it was. This, I thought, was a good thing—that he knows Dogfish Head but doesn’t know Budweiser or Dos Equis from a black hole in outer space. That, and that he recognizes the face of Sun Ra and advises me each night before going to sleep “to write some poems” are all signs that he’s finding his way to the truth.

This photograph of Julien with Heather was taken later that day during the reception of Sarah and Ryan’s wedding. That’s where we went after the ceremony on the beach, when Heather met us back at the car and we drove to the other end of the island. Julien danced to a lot of the songs they played, but he danced the most to P-Funk’s “Flashlight,” which was one of the songs Heather got to pick as a part of the wedding party.

Me, if I’d had a pick, I would have chosen, in addition to “Flashlight,” Sun Ra’s “Magic City.” There probably wouldn’t be anyone but me dancing to it (and maybe Julien), but toward the end of the song, when the last notes of Sun Ra’s clavioline start to fade, we’d all start to glow. And rise, over the sands of this little island, taking flight without the aid of the horrible machines and dead-end dreams of those men and women who don’t write about death but, rather, seek to create it.

As their faces and figures grow smaller and smaller as we rise higher and higher in the sky, our parting words to them will be something like, “Sorry, but this is how it’s going to be from now on.” And as we take off for other worlds, we won’t feel the least bit sad that we neglected to apologize to them for farting so much. Well, maybe a little.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

A Book of Lines and Years

I give to you a book
of days, you give to
me a line of minutes.
I give to you a story
of weeks, you give
to me a poem of years.
Seconds pass, then months,
with neither of us noticing
their passage until we look
into the mirror which
reveals to each a slight
surprise. It seems unpleasant
at first but as with wine,
it’s through our becoming
from boy to man and
girl to woman that we
learn to love it. If we
didn’t age we would
merely stay the same,
which has its benefits,
but with lack of change
comes all the horrible
baggage of boredom and
the awful dullness of ignorance.
This isn’t to say that every
line suggests much less
indicates character or even
wisdom, just that every
passage of time, whether
slow or swift, completes
the shape that makes us
into men and women
of vision, with eye and
ear, or touch and taste,
and sometimes even scent,
to recognize each clear and
brief moment, and all those
fleeting states of grace.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

The Biography of these Hours as Told through Random Actions and Movements

Photograph by Jose Padua
If Time were a foreign language
how long would it take me to master it?
To use it to ask simple questions from
other speakers of Time? Could I ever
discuss history and politics by driving
a truck down the interstate and flashing
the headlights on and off while watching
for the way other trucks change lanes,
which would indicate whether or not
they believed that history was cyclical
in nature and that a politics without
corruption was possible in our lifetime?
Could I ever write a poem with a shovel,
an elegy for lost loved ones that people
would be so moved by they’d memorize
the way I dug up the dirt, laid down
the seedling, then filled in the ground again,
stomping it with my foot, before shaking
the leftover earth from the shovel? If I
could express my love of life by leaving
the house more often, I would, walking
in these hard new shoes to Main Street,
greeting friends with the scraping of my
heels on the sidewalk, and looking up
to the sky or sideways at a brick wall
as a way of telling them I can stay longer
or that it’s time for me to go home. Some
days I feel like telling the world everything,
walking up the stairs making as little noise
as possible, stepping lightly on rasping wood,
and using just the slightest touch on the railing
to tell my story as I balance myself on my words.

-Jose Padua

The photograph was taken at the 2015 Apple Blossom festival in Winchester, Virginia by Jose Padua.