“Fuck / Time” Inua Ellams

1 post

“We Are Small as Moth Wing Fall”

Yesterday our family blog lost its license by posting a 5-line poem that exploded four f-bombs, Mary Ruefle’s “Red.” As we no longer have the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (I ran out of fish), I might as well go for it and share another f-balmy poem from Poetry, which was on an f’in run in its May issue.

This one uses the forward slash to separate would-be lines, a technique you, young poet, might consider for your increasingly messy (a good thing) toolbox. Ready, then? Fasten your seat belts!


Fuck / Time
Inua Ellams

Once upon a time / Yo-Yo Ma / traveling through Botswana searching for
music / crosses a local shaman singing / into the savannah / He rushes to
notate the melody / Please Sing Again he requests / to which the shaman
sings something else and explains / to the baffled Yo-Yo Ma that earlier /
clouds had covered the sun and wild antelope grazed in the distance / But
the dial of the world had twirled since / The antelopes had cantered into
some other future / The clouds had gone / so the song had to change / had to
slough off the chains us mortals clasp everything with / even our fluid wrists
/ The universe in fact is monstrously indifferent to the presence of man /
We are small as moth wing fall / in an orchestra broad as galaxies / playing
a symphony Time isn’t bothered to fathom / It respects no constant and is
always moving on


Note how no punctuation is used, though capitalization is utilized to signal sentence beginnings. Also, the forward slash is employed twice as a line ending and, curiously, once as a line beginning. The best explanation, from a distant vista, is the shape of the poem, which wants to be as rectangular as possible.

What I like best about the poem is the middle, how a song cannot be repeated because the physical world it was sung to has since changed. Thus, new songs must be sung. It’s how a shaman would think, diametrically opposed to the way an average Westerner would (though Yo-Yo Ma is neither average nor Westerner).

Having written a poetry collection called The Indifferent World, I also like the cameo of the word “indifferent,” as in “The universe in fact is monstrously indifferent to the presence of man.”

Can I get an “amen” to that?

My one quibble is that the strong center yields a milder finish. But hey, the poem’s creative, it uses a different technique, and it sticks to Poetry‘s May Theme in a Key of  F-Major.

All good, in other words / Have a ruby Tuesday