THERE NEVER WAS TIME
I wish, he said, the years would linger
And fly less fast to make me old;
My face is a mask that time’s swift finger
Models, moulding wrinkle and fold
In sagging flesh youth fashioned true
To the ageless image engraved on brass,
Of a young face Rome or Athens knew.
(There was time for youth to pass.)
Time had a long look when I was twenty;
Was there anything I had not done
And yet would do? Well, there was plenty
Of daylight left in the cycling sun.
The roughs of knowledge that wanted scaling
Loomed --- there was time to be a sage;
Time and to spare to heal all ailing.
(And time enough for a man to age.)
But now the night that has no breaking
Shadows the sun gone down the west,
And my heart in its damaged case is aching
After lost years too brief at best.
I know a journey that yet wants going,
I know a song that is still to sing,
I know a fallow that waits the sowing ---
(There never was time for everything.)
Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) was an Appalachian farmer-poet from Georgia, who was fairly well-known at mid-century. He was praised for both his rustic lyrical poetry and his ballads, and received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 1950 collection Bow Down in Jericho. “There Never Was Time” is from his 1952 collection A Song of Joy. Although Reece’s poems are hit and miss for me, there are some, like this one, that I like very much. It strikes me as especially poignant, as it speaks in the voice of an aging man, and while Reece was only 35 when it was published, in some ways he was already an old man, and perhaps had an inkling that he was not long for this world. He would die by his own hand a mere six years later, suffering from depression and tuberculosis.
--Rob Grano has a degree in religious studies, which he's put to good use working for a medical laboratory for the past 15 years. He's published a number of book and music reviews and occasionally has gotten paid for it. He lives outside of Pittsburgh, Pa