Numbering Days (After Marianne Moore’s “What are Years?”)

Today’s poem – my last one responding to Marianne Moore – is inspired by her great reflection on mortality and eternity, “What are Years?” It was the first of her poems that I ever read, back when I was studying poetry in the fourth year of my Literature degree, and I still remember the impact of those words when I first encountered them. You can read Moore’s poem here. As always, I am quite sure that my poem does not do justice to Moore’s work, but here it is anyway – a good reminder to me, and hopefully to all of us, of the wisdom of Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Numbering Days (After “What are Years?”)

           Days are short and time fades,
but breath is shorter: the
            out and in, the lungs finding
reason, purpose, yet ephemeral
as the flower’s first
petal, peering tentative to sun,
or a child teetering
            on feet not yet attuned
            yet little time to learn.

            How wonderful to be wise!
But apples’ after-taste
            is bitter like a seed; so
weak the life we breathe, how lasting death.
The snake, condemned to
spend its days in dust, belly-crawling,
            knows how futile those first
            steps can prove. But the one

            who walks bravely, feeling
finitude yet breathing,
            embracing breath, days numbered,
will see through humbled eyes how days wane
when held too tightly
how breath lengthens when released, how sun
            shines brightest when it shines
            humbled under true light.

Published by Matthew Pullar

Teacher, writer, blogger, husband, father, Christian. Living in Wyndham in Melbourne's west, on the land of the Kulin Nation. Searching for words to console and feed hearts and souls.

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