Telling Time

In 1965, somewhere between a saddle shoe
and a penny loafer, a classroom of third graders
computes how old they will be in the year 2000.

Last night I dreamed I was 43
and I woke up screaming.
Who will do the bridgework
on the mouth of a thousand years?
How many pieces of piecework
make a sweatshop hour?

We open our eyes to find ourselves
out the back door of one millenium
at the oven door of another,
wondering when our turn will come.

Do you believe that biding your time
comes at no cost at all?
I dream that credit cards dig holes in the earth
to bury me, flirtatious first year interest rates
      become broad oak leaves
that seduce with the illusion of safe shelter
and after a season of spending
the shoveling begins.

I wake to find my IRA's become leg irons
my bank accounts, anchors and managed
health insurance, a necessary choke chain.

Do you believe there is no price for following?
I tell you there's always somebody counting.

I dreamed an old saxophone
stooped with osteoporosis stopped me
on the road and whispered:
      If you want to save your shoes
you have to walk through life
      on your knees.

Woke up to find a cultured man trapped
in a chateau of his own purchase.
Surrounded by somber and towering objects,
spattered 20th century canvases stretched
as far as cerebral will go, he tells me:
      the candle is lost to its own wick.
How many pins
will prickle the heads of angels
before the coming
of a more effective insurrection?

Do you believe that keeping your hands
clean comes without a cost?
Last night, I dreamed that wisdom
gnarled me into Bonsai: my arms,
once reaching their full spread
now twist into branches condensed
and autistic.

I wake to the clatter of dumpsters
four stories below. It's six a.m,
and the muscular arms of men who work early.

- Nina Corwin

Telling Time was published in Nimrod.