American Life in Poetry: Column 332

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I’d guess that nearly everyone is aware that time seems to speed up as we age. Whenever I say that something happened ten years ago, my wife reminds me that it was twenty. Here’s a poem about time by the distinguished Maryland poet, Linda Pastan.

Counting Backwards

How did I get so old,
I wonder,
contemplating
my 67th birthday.
Dyslexia smiles:
I’m 76 in fact.

There are places
where at 60 they start
counting backwards;
in Japan
they start again
from one.

But the numbers
hardly matter.
It’s the physics
of acceleration I mind,
the way time speeds up
as if it hasn’t guessed

the destination—
where look!
I see my mother
and father bearing a cake,
waiting for me
at the starting line.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Linda Pastan, whose most recent book of poems is Traveling Light, W.W. Norton, 2011. Poem reprinted from Nimrod International Journal, Awards 32, Vol. 54, no. 1, 2010. Rights granted by Linda Pastan, in care of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. Introduction copyright © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.