issue 48: time is all we have

poet's statement

- michael estabrook (bio)

Part of me wants to leave behind thousands of poems
in countless little magazines and chapbooks,
infesting every nook and cranny of the Internet,
quantity over quality and all that.
Another part wants to write only, say,
100 poems, each a masterpiece like Dylan Thomas.
And a third part wants to leave nothing behind,
except for the smoke lingering in my wake after burning them all
leaving people to wonder about the genius they missed,
forever searching for any poetic gems that may have survived.
But seriously, do I have to write a poem every damn time
there’s a space in my day: at the doctor’s office, the airport,
the DMV, during the kids’ basketball practice, soccer, softball.
Pull out my notebook, push on my glasses,
click my pen into action.
(I’m old-fashioned, no electronic recording gadgetry for me.)
No doubt the literary world will be fine
if I simply sit and do nothing other than stare
into the space around me.
But the Muse, it’s her fault I tell you, she’s always crowding me
sticking her nose into my business. For example,
the last thing I wanted to do last night was wake up at 3 a.m.
turn on the light fumble for my pad and pen
but She was there nudging me hissing in my ear
“Come on man move it I got things to say.”

The Big Bang

- michael estabrook

What if time isn’t time
at all
never has been
and everything that ever happened everywhere
in the existence of the universe happened
at the exact same instant
so there was no past present or future
no beginnings middles or ends
to anything
no clocks or calendars
ticking off seconds minutes hours
days weeks months
years decades centuries . . .
no history or future prognostications
but instead
only a simple explosion of everythingness
everything ever created
time space matter energy all of it
smushed together existing together
in the selfsame moment
formed into one gigantic amorphous stew
and all that matters to any of us ever
is this moment now period.

Had we but world enough, and time.
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)

- michael estabrook


Just like that 40 years gone
children grown
I’m on the back deck
watching the dry, brown leaves
fall silently to the ground.


Now or Never
I’m old now don’t want to do what I don’t want to do
or talk to people I don’t like. Only so much
time left to be myself.


At this autumnal stage of my life
I should accept finally who I am
but I cannot because
so many improvements yet to be made.


Impossible to be perfect at everything. Improve
your strengths, ignore weaknesses. There are no more
Renaissance Men the world is too complicated.


Another crazy busy week.
Where has the time gone?
Where have my plans and dreams gone?
Too late now for new beginnings.


- michael estabrook

If only he could reverse time
return to when
he’d take her bowling or to a play
or a movie then to the diner
for tuna sandwiches and onion rings

Einstein theorized we could move forward in time
but not backwards.

They’d talk on the phone for hours
He carried her books and walk her
to her classes so the other guys knew
she was his girl

And according to Stephen Hawking:
“Any kind of time travel to the past through wormholes
or any other method is probably impossible.”

A time when they dreamed of spending
their lives together never apart
until the end of time

But now string theory mathematics is postulating
that we might be able to travel backwards
through “geometric structures
called closed timelike curves” (wormholes).

He’d protect her
provide for her
entertain her
she’d know that all he cared about was her
keeping her happy and safe
never able to say no to her
doing anything and everything in his power
to make sure she was always his

Time Considerations

- michael estabrook

Can all this be true
all this that’s happening?
After all these years
can you return to the beginning
as if the in-between
simply never existed?


You can’t go home again
Thomas Wolfe said
but where is home anyway
and what did he know
he was a novelist not a poet.


But do you really want to go back
do you think you could fix anything
by going back
avoid your stupid little personal disasters
your bitter embarrassments?
Do you think history won’t
repeat itself for once?


Do you think the girls
would treat you differently
or the boys think you fit and strong
a worthy opponent
giving you a wide berth?
No, it would all happen all over again
same things
only this time maybe worse.

There is no memory which time does not efface, nor
any pain that death does not destroy.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)

- michael estabrook

His bones stretch his skin
as if trying to escape his body
mouth hanging open
except when he gulps for air
like a dying fish

Only scraps of memory remaining from the old days
after the war living with her sister. Didn’t recognize me
when I said, “Aunt Jean it’s me, Choo-Choo!”

Chiropractic, injections, acupuncture,
surgery . . . nothing stopped
the back pain until I went off opioids
began lifting weights

What was her real reason
for accepting a blind date with a stranger
leaving me, her real “boyfriend”
stranded in the dorm lobby?

Grandpa Will
All he wanted was her home again
but the stroke paralyzed
half her body, left her speechless
he died before she did, home alone

Fear of Growing Old

- john sweet


Pushing aside karate, motorcycle and girlie magazines
trying to find a copy of Arthritis Today
suddenly wondering how the hell did I get here?


Old Man
Tired of my own voice
my old man quips, quotes and clichés
so predictable
enough to make me scream
but I’m tired of that too.


Forgetting the names of celebrities. I can live with it
but after being unable to recall William Faulkner
my favorite novelist I begin to worry.


Sultry Latina
He snaps sultry pictures of a long-haired Latina languishing
on a blanket, emails them to George who responds
“What kind of camera do you have?” Seriously?


Of the “baby boomer” generation
fighting getting old
with every ounce of strength
every shred of energy
while recognizing
I’m fighting a losing battle!

Grand Illusion

- michael estabrook

After 50 years of responsible adulthood
careers and family, education and financial planning
I’m pumping iron again
pressing pulling pushing
through bench presses curls pull-downs
shrugs squats deadlifts
sets and reps, warm-ups and cool-downs
calluses strained hamstrings cold packs heating pads
lifting belts wrist straps muscle magazines
my wife scratching her head biting her tongue . . .
And all for what? Seriously What?
To realize my illusion that somehow
I can stop time reverse it
return to being 17 once more
so I can experience again the mysterious flush
of first love, the power of athletic prowess
the grandeur of intellectual discovery
the vigorous confidence of self-realization
and mastery over all things earthly and beyond.

And so it is with our own past. It is a labor in vain to attempt to recapture it.
Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

- michael estabrook

Life’s so complicated
when in the beginning all that mattered
was this sweet brunette
in Language Arts class
the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen

Pure Beauty
Looking up at me holding my hand tightly
telling me “Yes I’ll go steady with you
be your girl if you still want me.”

When she would fall asleep
her pretty head
light upon my shoulder
I’d stay still as a stuffed otter
listening to the silence all around me

Park my VW, walk to my dorm in the dark
having just heard Cherish on the radio, not knowing
one day I’d look back on this with such longing

Recalling youthful summers with her:
dating, swimming, ice cream stands,
summer stock theatre
makes him ache with longing knowing
he can never go back again

Time Travel

- michael estabrook

Wouldn’t you love to travel back see dinosaurs, meet Jesus
Mozart, Shakespeare, be there watching the action,
knowing the truth, rather than reading about it.

To go back in time fall in love all over again:
her hair, her walk, her kiss, her scent, her smile –
what could be better than that?


When will astrophysicists reverse time sending me back
to our beginning among those perfect moments with her
where I long to return to be alive once again.


If you could slow down time
from going so fast
would you?
Or let it continue dragging you closer
to the end every day.


Time Machine
If he could take a time machine back he’d still pursue her
as if his life depended on it and marry her
because some things are longer-lasting than time.


- michael estabrook


Cold November night
I breathe in the chilled air feel it
filling my lungs
life is a good thing.
Stare up at the moon full and bright
etching shadows from
the trees across the lawn.
Stars are out too: Orion the Hunter,
Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins,
behind them the vast
infinite darkness of the universe
and its timelessness.
But not for me.
Part of the human condition is living
knowing you’ll be dying
and you don’t know when
and there’s nothing you can do about it
except seize the day.
Time is all we have. And strangely,
even though I didn’t love it,
I’m reminiscing about my life
as a “businessman”
sales and marketing
feeling sad
I’ll never be in business again:
imposing in my three-piece suit,
my company car,
making another sale,
hitting another target for the quarter,
my bonus for the year.
I take another deep breath
the cold air reminding me I’m alive
and for some reason the infinity
that is the universe
is sending me back
to when I was a young man
my future
stretching out before me timeless
and mysterious
as the universe itself.

end of issue 48. go back to issues page.

the poetry juicebox
an international poetry & art publication
the poetry juicebox