Time is a lot of things. It’s precious, it’s money, it’s irreversible. It measures change and is defined by change. And, as I was proud of deducing early on (when I still thought of the world as consisting of either-or pieces), time is easy to measure: you’ve got an eternity ahead of you, until you have not a moment more.
Now here’s how Anne Carson thinks about Time at the beginning of a chapter in her verse-novel Red Doc>. (I discuss the book’s unusual structure in my previous post, The Not-So-Mild Hallucinations of a Musk-Ox).
Time passes time
does not pass. Time all
but passes. Time usually
passes. Time passing and
gazing. Time has no gaze.
Sense or senseless? Let’s see, Time by Time in the Quote:
- The first is a paradox. (Time is elusive)
- The second is a quibble, a bridge between the two extremes, as is the third. (Time is finicky)
- The fourth introduces a new theme of gazing, as we’d gaze from a car in passing. (Time is aloof)
- The fifth denies the gaze. (Time is blind to our differences)
But that’s just the beginning. This chapter is fifty-one lines long, and she goes on to give another twenty-four instances of Time, most of which follow this pattern of starting a sentence with the same word—an example of the figure of speech called anaphora.
What makes the chapter special beyond the hammering of a repetitive element, however, is how Carson employs examples of Time to describe other human afflictions.
I’ve chosen to showcase some of her best ones (I quote her lines verbatim in italics, but I’ve left out the formatting). My interpretation is in square brackets.