The Other Side of Time

David Luntz

But not that time of Ecclesiastes, of sowing, gathering and threshing. Nor mythic time, like when you were in Rome and understood Paradise Lost for the first time because it was written in frescos and marble, not ink and paper. Nor that time of fever dreams, chasing grails or Rosebuds, the kind Yeats glimpsed when he saw the face he had before the world was made. Or that night in Athens of punch-drunk time when you snared its trembling reflection in a well of swimming moonlight, then dove down through it, turned on your back and watched stars stitch a tapestry of dancing shadows of what you were and would be.

Not Platonic Time where you struggle to remember everything your soul knew before you were born. Nor molting time, snake-eating-tail time, Stevens’ lush palm-at-the-end-of-the-mind time or Eliot’s stale, measured-out-in-coffee-spoons time. Nor souvenir time fading away in lost corridors of sea shells sitting on dusty bookshelves. Not even cannibalizing, son-murdering Father Time you were surprised to learn is just Chronos falling harmlessly as sand in an hour glass. Or that keen, taken-by-surprise, swooping-down talon time when you got abandoned by a brother, mother, lover or friend and everything stopped moving.

Not night-sweating time, either, when midnight bells toll, not because they’re not tolling for you, but just so you can say, “My God, what have I done?,” while relieved you can still breathe. Nor those gardens of forking pathed-times filled with Chinese lanterns and colorful dragons where enchanted childhood memories flicker. Not patient, finger-pricked Penelope Time weaving a wandering wonder home from an odyssey. Nor flowing river-time you can’t step into twice or that vacant geologic time of endless Great Lake vistas you vacationed at when you needed “me time.” When you spent all day seeking out peaks of mountains long-ago levelled and lost cities on shimmering plains covered in vines on top of which baboons danced until it got dark and a flickering cigarette at the end of pier presaged a death of a star or an imminent drowning. That’s when it clicked and you said, No more. No more of what? This time, of course, going on for all time.

Afterwards, after the divorce, after days of staring at drifting clouds wondering what it’s like to be a bat or a butterfly, to know millennia of tree-ring time or blazing colors seen by a fruit fly, when you were out fly fishing and rainbow flashes of trout below the surface made you think of olive branches and peace, that’s, that’s when you knew you’d made a mistake because the water’s glacial sheen put the idea of blue in your head. And to go from blue to black is an easy transition. So, soon enough you’re in that mood in which you’re feeling nothing more than a mote or speck in an ever-expanding darkness. A darkness, too, in which you’re also a universe unto yourself in which time couldn’t not exist: a co-dependency you never agreed to. As if something were eating you from both the inside and out. Which is when you finally come up against it and see that time when your death and unborn-self touch each other through some invisible membrane, as they must, otherwise this time could not be, this time when everything is happening urgently to you and to everyone else, too, yes, the excruciating, the impossible now.


David Luntz has work forthcoming in Vestal Review and Fiction International. Poems and short fiction have appeared in Best Small Fictions (2021), trampset, Lumiere Review, X-R-A-Y Lit, Litro, Orca Lit, and other print and online journals.