It’s time to change the time.
I’ve set the clocks ahead–
all but one, antique,
haughty on a high shelf,
that doesn’t really run
but keeps its time to itself,
though it emits if touched
a crotchety, cracked chime.
My wristwatch will be last
to dutifully spring
forward–and we’re all set,
as they say in
My son is heading out.
Be home by one, I say.
And he replies: Okay,
one by the old time.
I wait in the slow zone
while he floats through another.
Is he an hour late?
Am I an hour ahead?
Either way, old mother,
it’s time to go to bed.
The sleepy-feeling pace
(I turn a page and yawn)
is an illusion:
Everyone’s time runs out
at a single rate.
Not early and not late,
my son’s abruptly back.
-- Rachel Hadas
“Daylight Saving” is a model for what meter and thyme can accomplish in the right hands. I admire and take pleasure in the consummate craft of this poem, and in how lightly that craft is deployed to deliver meaning. At the risk of weighting the poem down, I’ll mention just a few of its elements.
Both the mostly regular meter and the recurrence of rhyme subtly carry the poem’s message of time passing at a fixed rate. In spite of variation the base meter ticks steadily away, and rhyme keeps coming back. This effect is reinforced because certain rhyming words having to do with time’s ticking repeat: “time’ – “chime” – “time” in the first section, and “rate” – “late” – “rate” in the second section. But none of this is intrusive: all is handled with the lightest of touches.
There’s life wisdom in the poem –an acceptance of time and
generational difference running under the poem’s delightful surface. The poem
works through a seemingly slight anecdote.
In the night of clock change a mother waits for her son to return. Are we in the son’s expanded hour of old
time, or in the mother’s foreshortened hour of daylight saving? Is the mother early, or the son late? “Either
way, old mother, / it’s time to go to bed.”
These two lines evoke, in the lightest possible way, generational
Meter and rhyme create a parallel to the anecdote. While I read I experience moments of
departure from the clock-work regularity of fixed meter and rhyme. But as with the mother’s sense of suspended
time (“a sleepy-feeling pace”), it’s a momentary “illusion.” Like the son’s abrupt return, back come the
iambs, and back come the rhymes. For mother
and son and the reader, time is ticking away “at a single rate.”
The poem is a meditation on time, delivered in the guise of
a charming anecdote; and all elements serve to impart that meditation in an
experiential way. The light surface of
the poem conceals its deep craft.
-- Patricia Carlin