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.
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.”