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Not Knowing the Time

by James Graham 

Posted: 08 October 2006
Word Count: 177
Summary: This is an old one, written when I could still cycle a few miles!

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Not Knowing the Time

And first I put a little air in the tyres,
and almost without thought took off my watch.
And then the October air, and the joy of balance.

And a nod to a person I knew, who was going somewhere,
and a word to a person I knew, who carried a paper
and looked at his watch, and walked at the green man's bidding.

I rested the bike on a verge, and lay in the shade,
in the midst of the grass, the dusty delicate heads,
a long time looking upwards and lying still.

A long time looking upwards and lying still.
The airy foliage, the dry October leaves,
trembled and spun against a moving sky.

And then I turned over, to see the world under the grass:
the empty spiderways, the tortuous streets and plazas.
A solitary motion there, the last of the summer crowd.

A long time lying still and living in the grass,
like a mouse or deer on the sea-floor, or bright
fish drifting and steering among the crowns.

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Comments by other Members

joanie at 17:47 on 08 October 2006  Report this post
James, simply reading this relaxes me and takes me off with you on that bike ride! I just love the opening 'and's and the repetitions, especially the halfway point. Taking off your watch despite yourself is wonderful - I wish I had the courage to do it!

Just deliciously calm until the last two lines, which have had me returning a few times already.



Elsie at 19:33 on 09 October 2006  Report this post
Hi James

I was wondering if this was a traditional form because of the repeated lines, but I can’t think what it would be.

I really like the 2nd line, that sets up the whole poem. The 5th stanza is lovely, reminds me of being a child, staring into the grass, and imaging being tiny, like “The borrowers’ – so I particularly liked the idea of:

the empty spiderways, the tortuous streets and plazas.
A solitary motion there, the last of the summer crowd.

In the last stanza I like the way you express being out of place and wondering at the different world around you, but I was puzzled by the ‘crowns’ – is that crowns as in headwear of royalty (which makes an interesting image) or some other kind of crown – do you get crowns of garlic, grass etc?

One other thing that puzzled me – the man with the paper and the watch – who walked at the green man’s bidding. Ah – I think I get it as I’m typing – it’s not the green man in the woods – it’s The Green Man pub.

I enjoyed reading this.

joanie at 20:51 on 09 October 2006  Report this post
Elsie, I assumed the green man was the pelican crossing.


Elsie at 21:32 on 09 October 2006  Report this post
Ah - but.. he's checking his watch, (for opening time) and has a newspaper... though on the other hand on the subject of cycling - a road sign may be more appropriate. Only James can tell us what was in his head! (Though now I think you're probably right...)

James Graham at 19:17 on 10 October 2006  Report this post
Elsie, I think you can talk about crowns of garlic or grass, but most important for this poem, trees have crowns. It's a weird image, the fish and animals put into the wrong elements - but you were spot on in saying it's meant to express a feeling of being out of place, 'living in the grass', in a strange environment.

Yes, it's the wee green man at the traffic lights. Probably if it had been opening time at the Green Man pub I would have parked the bike and gone in, instead of communing with nature.

Thanks Elsie, and Joanie too, I'm pleased you enjoyed this.


NinaLara at 07:31 on 12 October 2006  Report this post
Hi James -
sorry to have been away from the board this week!

I like the sense the you are sinking further into nature and further into imagination. I can spend hours looking at moss becuase it seems like a rainforest in miniature - so I am with you here!

The only phrase that worries me is 'joy of balance'. I don't know why .... perhaps it sounds a little like a victorian gentleman on a pennyfarthing. Could it be 'enjoying balance'?

Thank James!


hailfabio at 11:06 on 26 October 2006  Report this post
Great work James.

Having just purchased a bicycle i can really relate to this.

Love the repeated lines.


James Graham at 18:56 on 26 October 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Stephen, glad you liked this poem.

Nina, 'the joy of balance' does seem a bit pretentious. I can't think of a substitute right away but something will pop up sooner or later. Thanks for your comment.


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