Poem 86

Time is the distance between two bubbles. Short time, long time, according to
Brightness or dullness, homogeneity and hue.

Time is the difference between two ways of looking. Today we have seen
That that which appeared yesterday as a form in red is a shape of green.

Our bubbles are mirror-rooms in which we prink ourselves trying to erase
The scars of wounds inflicted by time’s iron-shod tread in our tender flesh.

In drunkenness, not with mirror-labours, should we meet time’s violence;
With wit born from the crystal wineglass should we answer time’s insolence.

But all our lives we’ve been drinking illicit seaweed liquor,
Never getting divine drunk, but just lousily sicker.

Seaweed liquor creates a terrible thirst, which the drinker tries to slake with more booze.
More booze, more thirst, more booze. Consciousness climbing up sinks back into the ooze.

Seek the wineshop of the Beloved: by His wine you’ll overcome even death —
For there’s one thing death cannot stand, and that’s the pure wine drinker’s perfumed breath.

Passing time springs up as a theme in this and the next two poems. Like Einstein the poet does not treat time and space as independent absolutes. But Francis sees them as part of our taking the illusory as real. Each soul drop takes its own bubble of illusion as a standard measured against others’ bubbles. Time in verse 1 seems to alter its passing according to our awareness. In verse 2 it is measured by difference and changes in appearance rather than substance.

We are all threatened by such changes, from which we try to hide by ‘prinking’(titivating) our image, in other words adjusting our own images in the looking glass of our minds to hide the evidence of mortality (verse 3).

The clinging to youth is not the way to hide from this menace. Time is insolent, it seems to master us, but we can escape with drunkenness from the winecup which makes us no longer need Narcissus’ ploys (verse 4).

Great note of no nonsense realism in the next two stanzas; we have turned to drink but it has been with the desperateness of marooned sailors, mind alterings which only increase our thirst, like temporary exaltations from drugs or sensual excitement.

Beautiful ending in praise of the perfume of His presence. Time may conquer all but His wine conquers time.

I find the rigour of 4 beats to a line given in a disciplined reading of the poem gives its urgency a real bite.