• Christine Delea

April 22: Four Definitions

Below is a poem by the wonderful poet Carolyn Moore. In it, she "defines" the use of time. She has 4 definitions, each in its own section, and ends with a coda. Each stanza/section presents an image and then each section ends with a parenthetical in which the type of time is expressed and a more metaphoric example is provided.

Using Carolyn's poem as your inspiration, write a definition poem, preferably in sections, and preferably definitions something subjective, intangible, and impossible to actually define with a few definitions.

Four Definitions For the Use of Time

by Carolyn Moore


Your book club neighbor chats across the fence

of marginalia you’d feel rude to halt.

You’re late for the doctor’s bad news redefining

late as good. (Here, time as minutes saved

before the clock’s face and hands tic with fear.)


Our dead forget all of their favorite colors

but not how we felt when our red wine stained

their table’s open grain. (Time as rebuke,

selective as trout hungry for nymphs,

and you with nothing but dry flies to pimp.)


The lawn defines itself once grass aligns

with like shades cordoned off from random greens.

(Linear pastime, two deft steps to where

Aristotle applauds your logic’s genus,

differentia, and cool distraction.)


The ER doctor said the midnight skunk

saved your life. Its stench woke you in time.

(Here, a temporal housemaid scours grit

from crisis, rasps and files time’s rough, chipped edge—

though if chafed too long, the fault fissures anew.)


Consider circles in dreams that make you sweat:

those rubber loops back to unfinished grief.

That pain, like time, is useful for its waste.

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