The years pass

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In the beginning
it is like this:
you are little and it is.
There is no will be,
no was in your memory.
Your existence is.
You are in this minute.

Learning comes
from beyond your consciousness;
you have no recollection
of being unable to do what you can do today,
no expectation of future ability,
and when you are happy or sad
that moment
of elation or pain
is all there is.

<> <> <>

Time passes all around you
and you don’t know when the knowledge began,
but it is as if you always understood the passage of time.
You think your memory stretches back forever
but you are only five
and though you try
you can’t recall
a time when you weren’t alive,
and you can’t imagine
that some day you will die
or even that you will age.
Life is a series of days that stretch on forever
in a complex but unchanging pattern.
You dread your sister’s Monday temper
but look forward to her weekend games
You have discovered your past,
know there is a future,
but mostly
you breathe the moment.

< <>  <>

You are eight.
When you don’t understand long division
you remember how reading
was once so difficult
and yet now it’s easy.
You think of all the changes that have taken place in your life,
all the things that you have learned.
You are clever and you know that one day
you’ll attain teenage status,
but thinking ahead to a time when
you’ll no longer be under the protection of your parents
is too distant,
until that horrific day when your friend
turns up looking miserable and you ask her what’s wrong.

She tells you her mother has died.

Something crashes, noisily, in your head
spreading crimson through your brain
thickening, blocking your ears,
constricting your throat.
There are no words
and when they finally come they are the wrong ones,
thrown out in panic, because all this is outside your experience,
and because suddenly you know that one day
what has happened to your friend
will happen to you.
You will be alone. It could be forty years from now
or it could be tomorrow.
You could come home from school
and find your mother dead.

At night, when you lie in bed,
the fears crash in
like vandals breaking the windows of a vacant property,
and they don’t stop kicking until you have cried yourself to sleep.
They won’t let you alone, and yet
you still don’t think of how it will be when you are grown up.
You tell people you want to be a journalist
but it isn’t real.
There is only the past, the present, tomorrow, next week
and your terror.

< < <>

Your teens
are driven by twin needs for excitement and love,
complicated by unsettling hormones
setting up battles in the brain.
You trip again and again,
rarely regaining your balance before a further fall.
You turn blind corners and scale forbidden walls.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
You scale, you tire, you fail, you fall.
it becomes boring, but you cannot stop
because you are lost in a lonely shadow
looking for something which you think
is out there.

Somebody says
you won’t find it until you find yourself,
You catch the the words as they tumble from his lips,
but they get jumbled on the way to your mind
and although you try you cannot untangle them.

You want to find your way in life,
but amidst all the confusion
you do not have the vision
or the time.

<> < <>

On your twentieth birthday,
looking back at your errant teens
you think you have learnt all your lessons
and there are no more mistakes to be made.
You’ve escaped your most recent error
and you’re having a good day.
You assume you’ve cast
a healthy pattern for your future,
but when you try to imagine the rest of your life
you picture yourself cartwheeling through a sunny meadow,
arriving at the other end with skin still fresh
and energy fizzing.

You don’t know you have just hit
that quintessential moment of youth.
You walk down the street feeling the spring of your feet.
Your spine stretches and the sky tickles your chin,
and when you laugh
your laughter scoops merriment out of a void,
pulling it from the throats of strangers.
You feel like the chosen leader
in a land you have freed from
the tyranny of misery.

You think the planet is turning
just so it can look at you from the best angle,
but for five minutes you own the world.
For five minutes you think that life
will always be that way.

You will live long enough to learn
that those five minutes were worth more
than your finest rose-petal romance.

< < <>

Forty years pass.
Forty years of missed prizes and misdirected action,
of rubbings-out and scribbled correction,
resulting in good and bad things,
many of them enduring long enough
to cheer or chill you as you age
and when you ponder it,
you know that if at any stage
you had seriously thought about your future,
you would not have dreamed that so many of your days
would be so infused with pain.
But then, if you had thought about your future,
it probably wouldn’t have.

You enjoy the better things you’ve made
and you’ve learnt from your mistakes.
It would have been no education
to have come through life unscathed.

<> <> <>

Posted for The Daily Post’s One Word Prompt: Clock

©Jane Paterson Basil

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21 thoughts on “The years pass

  1. Wow! So you’ve gone through decades of life under the theme of clocks, summing up life life in a few stanzas. Not mush of a task then?
    This is heartbreaking and wistful, a lot of lessons learned but never regretted. The eight year old section took me by the throat – did that really happen to you? That crashing realisation of mortality – devastating. And the twenties section – that naivety when you really think you’re a grown up now and know everything there is to know about life. It really is true the more you know the more you realise you don’t know.
    Fantastic poem Jane.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! It’s as if you’ve scooped these thoughts and feelings right out of my life. This is incredible and EXACTLY right. It’s always a relief to find I’m not as unique as I think I am. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A number of times the DP has just plopped into my lap when I’ve already written for the day..Glad it worked for you toay.

    You think the planet is turning
    just so it can look at you from the best angle,

    I especially like that line! Lots of pondering going on in our age bracket. xo J

    Liked by 1 person

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