Summer Poetry Feature: Mary Ferrari’s Modern Times
Mary Selby Ferrari was born in New Orleans in 1928. She grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, and was educated at the College of New Rochelle, New York University and Columbia University. She taught poetry workshops and other writing and literary courses and Iona College, the College of New Rochelle and The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s.
Her work has appeared in three previous collections of her own and in such magazines and anthologies as The World, Adventure in Poetry, Angel Hair, Broadway 1 and Broadway 2, Hanging Loose, Telephone and New York Quarterly. She won the Dylan Thomas Memorial Award for Poetry at the New School.
Ferrari has four children. She lived in Paris for four years and has lived in Larchmont, NY for over thirty years. She and her late husband lived temporarily in South Africa, where she taught poetry to the street boys of Johannesburg and was a visiting lecturer in creative writing at the University of Witswatersrand. Her work has appeared in South African magazines The New Nation and Staffrider.
Today we are featuring her poem “Modern Times”. It was written in the early 1970’s and published in The Isle of the Little God in 1981.
Time is falling through me
so fast I can’t catch it.
All night the foghorn blows
the minutes into my ear.
Time dives into the waves
and catches me by the legs.
Time is behind the black rock.
Find him! Find him!
Look, I know what you’re after–
but you can’t it!
Take my blue ring, my green beads–
take these raisins and nuts
from a pretty girl!
Here’s the bluefish of midnight
for the worst journeys!
the living crab, the Christ
hidden in a boat! Time
bites my arm. The light in
the lighthouse is out. The sandpiper
ran away. I’d like to
ride over Time on a bike
and twist his neck in a flag.
But what good would that do?
I’ve missed the great breakers.
And these babies died too soon.
Time didn’t notice them but
the orange sky above the
historic cemetery is beautiful
and newly born
and the spinster whose brother just died
is laughing, the feverish little boy
is laughing and imitating Chaplin,
the poet whose father lest home when
he was five is laughing, the blue
bathing suit is laughing, the plane
crash dream is laughing, the vacation
that is over for good is laughing
the smashed clock whose hour hand
is limp but the minute hand goes on
ticking the future is laughing.