What have you done with your life, what were you doing, say,
On the 9th of June 1971? … Minutiae . . .
The tiny down of a tit’s feather caught shivering
On a bramble catches and holds the eye, distracts the wavering
Answer—Or allows you time? Time to think, remember.

Was it in June of that year, or not until September
I was in ... I was . . . I. .. Hold it a minute. Yes! No,
Can’t be sure, never kept a diary. But I see now
Why some have the Pepysian itch: write yourself down, record
Your daily digestion: acts: letters: whether your feet were sore,
What ballast of mood you were carrying, things undone
That you never did yet: days, weeks, months all gone
Into a compost, mapped with the snail-track shine
Of forgotten aims, laid-away dreams, a pot-pourri
With a now indefinable perfume.—Lord, what is man,
This breathing, bundling sentience? The tit’s feather clings
And shivers, the bird that grew it a morsel in a hawk’s stomach
Or minutely busy elsewhere with the unremembering urge
Of survival.

Memory’s a moon that will go, come, and go
Plying its sly capricious pull on tides, thoughts and things,
Things . . . like clouds involved in the windy sky’s vertigo.

A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 10, on page 42
Copyright © 2018 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com