Friday, July 21, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Timing is Everything

Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park

timing is everything

how we measure the seconds between
     toast and charcoal
     insult and injury
     impact and airbag
hands up, palms forward--stop!

how we measure the seconds between
     boom and sparkle
     joke and punchline
     notice and wonder
hands out, palms cupped--more!

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

I took the title of my poem from today's poem at The Writer's Almanac. Gerald Locklin uses the timing of one event for his poem, but I got to thinking about the range of emotions possible within brief moments. What are some moments you'd like to have stopped or to held onto?

Katie has the Poetry Friday roundup today at The Logonauts.


  1. Love it. Well done, Mary Lee.

  2. There are so many moments that we wish would last - and others we wish had never happened.

    I like the sparkle. :)

  3. Fascinating, Mary Lee. I just watched a video about the use of small moments of quiet in movies by Miyazaki. That introduced me to the Japanese concept of Ma. I see a connection with your poem -- those small pauses where we must make a decision. (Here's the video, if you're interested:

    1. Thanks for the connection and the link! Based on the introduction in the video and the spoiler alert warning, I reserved the movie from the library so I can watch it first.

    2. This is a beautiful concept, this "ma". Thank you for bringing it to my attention. And thanks, Mary Lee, for the poems that inspired that thinking.

      I suspect that fishing for trout has a bit of "ma" in it, too, which is why it is beautiful.

  4. I absolutely remember, with incredible vividness, an experience I had six years ago, where I thought to myself, "I wish this moment would never end" - as Gordon Lightfoot sang, if only we could save time in a bottle!

  5. OK, I started to comment, and then it went away. Not sure if I hit publish or ??? Anyway, as I was saying, I have thought so often about how single moments can be so, so, so significant and life-changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad or awful. You have captured that so perfectly here.

  6. At first, I thought I'd naturally want more hands cupped moments in my life to savor, but then I thought of the many times when I have absolutely needed the hands out, and was thankful for those, too. You always get me thinking, Mary Lee!

  7. Your idea reminds me of Thoreau's words, this at the beginning, "Time is but the stream I go a fishin' in". There are those moments and I love how you've shown the 'either-or' of them.

  8. Oh, that's wonderful! To notice the reflex that happens so fast. I'm snapping my fingers in the air before cupping my hands for more! Love it!

  9. I'd love to hold on to name announced and State Fair nominee, her face was priceless. Two outfits this year are going. Your moments are very small, that you've captured.

  10. Timing is so important and so ma)eable. Some moments we want to end seem to stretch forever, while others slip away much too quickly. I just read an interesting discussion of time at Dorothy's trial in Gregory Maguire's Out of Oz.

  11. There is a time for everything. And timing is crazy for sure. I love what you have accomplished here, Mary Lee. That last line says it all. Well done!

  12. Anonymous8:35 AM

    You had me with toast and charcoal... Good one.

  13. This is one that will work as well for 5th graders as for adults--spot on! I love the all the little timelines, the perfect examples, this calls up that usually pass us by. Going to investigate "ma".

  14. Here's where I landed first, which is exactly where someone who is spending the summer decluttering should end up:

    "When Less is More: Concept of Japanese "MA"

    Japanese Kanji for "MA"

    Where there is clutter, even valuable things lose their value. Where there is too much, nothing stands out.

    The essence of Japanese aesthetic is a concept called 'MA' (pronounced "maah") — the pure, and indeed essential, void between all "things."

    A total lack of clutter, MA is like a holder within which things can exist, stand out and have meaning.

    MA is the emptiness full of possibilities, like a promise yet to be fulfilled."

    So not just the moment of decision, but the moment of possibility, of clarity, of noticing.

    And more:
    A Poetic View

    Here is an old poem about the meaning of MA: Empty Cage

    Thirty spokes meet in the hub,
    though the space between them is the essence of the wheel.

    Pots are formed from clay,
    though the space inside them is the essence of the pot.

    Walls with windows and doors form the house,
    though the space within them is the essence of the house."

    I'm working on more empty space...

    1. Thanks for this, Heidi. I am working inside my head on how I will bring MA to my teaching, remembering that less really does create the space for more...Not an easy way to go in these days of moremoremore in education, but probably the most important way to go...

  15. Let's have more of " notice and wonder," in keeping with Heidi's comments above I liked the directness and brevity of your poem. I'd love to have more time to clear things out, and have less. But, I'd also like to have more summer.

  16. Anonymous5:16 PM

    I love this thought-provoking poem, Mary Lee! The conversation about MA is fascinating, too. Clutter is a constant struggle for me (yes, I will read that book, knit with that yarn...). As I pack up my kitchen and dining room and realize just how much stuff I have, it's been much easier to put "hands up, palms forward--stop!"

  17. As my hallways fill up with discard sandals, beach towels, library books, mismatched socks and mostly-empty sunscreen bottles, the only ma in my life is in my head. And in the time it takes my computer to load the next PF post. A delicious ma, I will enjoy more now that it has a name.

  18. That space between the boom and the sparkle... so short.
    I would have held onto the moment between my mother waking up and passing on...the time between filling the teakettle and its last whistle.


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