Later Than You Think

There is no way to guess what time it is.
I could look at the clock but the hands only wave,
the numbers take a dive and run backwards,
counting-down on my face like a nasa check list.
It is way past the wake-up call I expected.
There was no warning when the sun burst aside,
when the clouds lurched away to let in the light
and the day began.
It is way past the appointed time for my falling away,
when I’m to summon all my strength and take a great breath
and not be good enough,
when I’m to fail and go on down forever.
The lost legions of my army
vanish like a cloud of used perfume and toiletries.
There is an orange spot in the sky
where the sun is crayola gold.
I stagger around in a light that looks for all the world
like darkness.
This is me growing old,
drawing stick figures on a napkin,
cutting one last piece of pie
with plastic cutlery.
If I had known,
if I had only known,
I wouldn’t have dared.

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One Comment on “Later Than You Think”

  1. Simone Says:

    Carroll, that ending is a good one (final three lines). I feel this poem is admonitory, and seems to represent an experience in actualization. The title of the poem and the first line seem to speak to each other, to the effect of “There is no way to guess what time it is, but it’s later than you think.” I just get the feeling this poem has to do with readiness, enunciated, in part, by this great imagery: “There was no warning when the sun burst aside, / when the clouds lurched away to let in the light / and the day began.” Time, in some way, seems to be regarded as an invention. I also wonder how the speaker knows he is “growing old” – or, more so, how we should perceive the effects of time/timelessness as those effects relate to our self-view (going back to the suggestion that this poem seems to be about actualization, to the extent of questioning the terms of ourselves). Thanks for another intriguing and thought-provoking poem!


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