Monday, April 30, 2012

Marilyn Nelson - Telling Time

Telling Time
Connally AFB, Texas, 1951
Marilyn Nelson

Mama reminds me I’m a big girl now:
I’m five years old. I can watch Jennifer
for five minutes; they’ll just be down the street.
They tuck us in. I hear the door lock click.
Five minutes. Just five minutes, Daddy said.
My first-grade class is learning to read clocks,
so I know minutes are the little lines
between numbers. Clocks is how you tell time.
Past is before now; future is after.
Now is a five minute eternity,
Jennifer and I howling in pajamas
in the front yard of the housing unit,
surrounded by concerned faceless strangers
who back away, now our parents are here.

© Marilyn Nelson. All rights reserved.

Telling Time is a piece from an as yet unreleased YA book Marilyn Nelson is writing about her childhood in a Fifties military family. What's so wonderful to me is that she makes five minutes back then feel remarkably like five minutes today, yet just in this one poem she's created a whole family for me to become invested in... and I know that time and place will be a critical part of who they are, how they act, and the prism through which I'll come to view them. Perhaps I know this because I've read other Marilyn Nelson poems, but to me, at least, it's all there in this one short verse.

Marilyn Nelson's books for adults and children have won so many awards and honors that I don't have space to list them all. She herself has received a Guggenheim fellowship and been the poet laureate of Connecticut. All those titles and honors, however, come from the fact that her writing connects on every level - helping us see people clearly, bringing a depth of emotion, creating laughter, and never shying away from her subjects. I promised myself I'd make it through April without gushing about any of the poets, but the only way I can do that is stop myself now and simply say I'm absolutely thrilled to have Marilyn Nelson here today to bring this year's 30 Poets/30 Days to a conclusion.

Yesterday, Alma Flor Ada gave us To Poetry/A La Poesía. Today wraps up this year's edition of 30 Poets/30 Days. There's much more to come here at GottaBook in May and beyond, but we'll leave that for another day. Thanks for hanging out here in April, and may every month be poetry month for you!


Joanna said...

The anxiety of these eternal five minutes is painfully sweet!

Greg, thank you so much for these thirty days of poetic pleasure...What a great variety of poets and poems you have served us with!

Unknown said...

Greg, what a spectacular end to 30 Days...This poem of Marilyn Nelson's, as with her other work, is part of what keeps me inspired and working hard to make my own poetry as powerful. Thank you for all this fabulous "exposure" to wonderful poetry.

tanita✿davis said...

Hahahah! Oh, dear. Been there, done that, unfortunately. "I'll be right back," somehow meant, in childhood, that some sort of eternity would roll by first.

I really love Marilyn Nelson, and am glad to see something new on deck for her! Yay!

Amy LV said...

This sucked the breath out of me. Wow.

Thank you for a tremendous month, Greg.


Charles Waters said...

Holy smokes that's profound. Her book CARVER was so good I still haven't recovered from it. Thanks for including this master of form in 30/30.

Kristina said...

Thanks for a wonderful month of poetry discoveries! I'm sad to see April end.

Life's a poem said...

Thanks Greg for a great month of poetry! And so special for me- being one of the poets this time.

Yah for poetry.

Lorraine Marwood

April Halprin Wayland said...

Oh, my, GP--you've done it again.

And this last one...ditto what Amy said.

Thank you for all the research and reaching out and reading you do so that we might eat cake!