We’re not in any rush. Time goes both ways.
Our toes turn into heels and heels to toes.
Some spin their wheels, do donuts, catch the craze
their screens display. Not us. We’re through with those.
Time’s so much better now, its arrowhead
as soft as feathers, and its feathers flint,
by turns. For decades we had thought it sped
just one way. That was one disastrous stint.
The field is open, cleared of stubble, disced
and plowed and ready for new planting. Who
recalls the deep time and steep odds we risked?
The arrow shaft dissolved as archer drew.
Thoreau could find an arrowhead and hear
the breathing of the hunter and the deer.
There is no mystery when the fangs go in.
Of course a different thing, uncertainty,
arises when a cottonmouth strikes. Skin
deep? Deeper? Venom dose: full potency?
What volume was injected? Who can say?
It happened quickly, though time seemed to slow.
The nearest doctor’s three hours’ hike away.
Has he got antivenin? We don’t know.
We’re shackled to the situation tight
as slaves to oars, chain gangs to iron rings.
The cottonmouth is curled up for the night,
already buried in replenishing
its store of poison, languidly, asleep
almost, more coiled-up lashes in its keep.
The castaways on islands share one hope,
to spy a sail and catch a lookout’s eye.
Without such fantasies, they’d scarcely cope
with their predicament, and cease to try,
with those crude tools they’ve fashioned, to survive.
We understand this in our DNA,
from which we can’t escape, while we’re alive,
but hope we may transcend come Judgment Day,
which day is differently defined on Crete,
Manhattan, Pago Pago, and Timor.
We know we’re stranded: each feels incomplete,
and with a weather eye patrols the shore,
now gazing far out, now down at our feet.
Feet veined with seaweed, streaked with salt, and sore.
Dan Campion is the author of Peter De Vries and Surrealism and co-editor of Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song. Dan’s poetry has appeared previously in Grand Little Things and in Able Muse, Poetry, Rolling Stone, Think, and many other magazines. A selection of his poems titled The Mirror Test will be published by MadHat Press in February 2022.