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.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 10, on page 42
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