Eleven, weak and sickly, burning,
eyes watery, head aching,
breathing shallow, labored,
as when infant, then saved
by loving hands and whiskey
on cloth, now older, alone, feverish,
legs stretched tightly for fleeting
moment without pain, suddenly an
image, clear, undeniable;
prescient vision laid clear in sight,
add sixty-four, another bed, another time,
same fire, same pain, one difference --
the end at seventy-five, the
last time-flickering like film,
maybe just bad delirium, or
self-fulfilling prophecy, best shunned,
delayed, stayed some while more
from final, inescapable truth.
Sets in at different times, but
mostly later, when there's snow
on the roof or when the shingles
have mostly fallen off.
Things start to speed up and
there's this feeling that time
is running out and you're not
going to reach that goal
that has been your calling
since you were quite young.
You're driven to finish, to
work harder, faster, to leave a
legacy for somebody to build on, for
somebody to maybe just notice.
Up ahead you see that end date, the
last one, the sunset you won't see, the
sunrise without you, when there are
no more jobs to do, no more tasks to
accomplish, no more time.
And you push too hard, you
jump the gun, you say things
you shouldn't, like I
love you or I hate you when
you were just trying to shorten the
time it takes to be those things, do
those things, live to the fullest,
one last time.
But that's all it is -- panic mode.
Ease back, let up on the throttle,
try to live in regular time, as if
these were lots of it left, as if
you didn't know what was ahead.
And calm yourself, relax,
take in the fading sunset
as if it were the first sunrise,
as if there were infinitely
more to come, and that you
would see every last one of them.
At first waxing, like the moon,
new into hopeful sliver,
joyful crescent to quarter,
slowly brightening, slowly growing,
waxing gibbous, light shining brighter,
all full, complete, known,
all felt, seen, with perpetual
hope in the light --
yet with time, change,
no permanency brooked,
no lengthy stay permitted,
waning then, no longer full,
slowly dimming, slowing declining,
waning gibbous, at partial shine,
to the waning sliver, the
final darkness of the black
new moon, this cycle
not repeating, not returning,
the back side of the moon broached,
lightless night, unchanging,
in permanent darkness.
J.B. Hogan has published over 280 stories and poems and eleven books, including Bar Harbor, Bounty Riders, Time and Time Again, Mexican Skies, Tin Hollow, Living Behind Time, Losing Cotton, The Rubicon, Fallen, The Apostate, and Angels' in the Ozarks (nonfiction, local professional baseball history). He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.