“Teaching Time,” the History
My mother taught third grade at Boonville School. She sometimes brought home various tools of her trade, flash cards, for example; she employed these to make sure I didn’t come off looking like an ignoramus, when it was my turn to add or subtract, or to read about the adventures of Dick and Jane. When summer came, she had to do something to prevent me from forgetting everything I had learned. I spent half my time in front of the black and white Philco TV, half my time playing in the creek or among the various barns. Thus, on a rainy day, I probably picked up a plastic clock and practiced reading the hour and minute hands.
My central metaphor—the years speeding up like a coin in the funnel—seemed quite appropriate when I was teaching and my daughters were growing up. I was so busy, and they changed so quickly. And it made sense to me that when I was seven, a year was one-seventh of my life, while it was one-fiftieth when I was fifty—a much smaller portion. Now, that I am sixty-eight, however, the figure does not seem right. I retired in 2016, and then Covid came along and slowed things down so much, a month seemed to last as long as a year.
So what is the best metaphor for the crowd over sixty? (And why would anyone under thirty care to know?) Am I made of sand, a sand man waiting for high tide? Maybe so, but that does not quite do it. Maybe time is a fantasy, the river in which we swim until we get tired and drift out to sea.
This poem was first published in Appalachian Journal, thanks to editor Sandy Ballard, and then in the chapbook, Naming the Constellations, thanks to Kathryn Stripling Byer. Finally, it can be found in Cold Spring Rising, which is still available from Press 53: