.

This Side of Eternity

I.

Imagination, you’re a two-edged sword,
The universe your oyster, opened wide;
Conceiving all the boon life might afford
In dazzling display: what may be tried,
Perpetual possibilities, outpoured
Before the casual confidence of pride.

Infinity thus beckons, but we err
Who hope to taste more than our finite share.

Ideas, lacking opportunity,
Far from propelling us to reach the stars,
Become a heavy burden on the soul—
How can a mind so vast still mortal be?
A lifetime shrinks to naught, and leaves but scars
From every hopeless dream and unmet goal.

.

II.

The moments swiftly filter through our fingers,
A lifetime of accumulating sands;
Despite the grip of vainly grasping hands,
They flee for good—there’s not one moment lingers.
Coming to terms with each new failing strategy,
We strive to keep them, piling them in towers,
Make monuments of all the days and hours,
Only to witness more unyielding tragedy:
That time’s relentless, restless turning tides
Demolish these memorials we’ve molded,
And ragged ribbons of a life unfolded
Adorn our empty, echoing insides.
Impossible, this dream of holding on:
The present’s now; we blink, and it is gone.

.

III.

My soul clings to the dust that constitutes
The substance of its temporal abode—
Its shelter and its mode of transportation—
As leaf and stem cling fiercely to their roots,
From which life’s nutrients have ever flowed,
And whose firm grip has kept them from migration.

With greatest pains I must preserve this crust,
For something infinite dwells in the dust.

Unlike the plants of earth, and lowly brutes,
I am comprised of more than eye can see.
In realms unknown I send up tender shoots;
With thought unbound I grow tremendously;
Ideas blossom into sweetest fruits,
Through time and into bright eternity.

.

.

A Pennsylvania native now residing in Colorado, Anna J. Arredondo is an engineer by education, a home educator by choice, and by preference, a poet. She also has poems published (or forthcoming) in The Lyric, Time of Singing, Light, Blue Unicorn, Better Than Starbucks, and WestWard Quarterly.


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21 Responses

  1. Paul Buchheit

    A beautiful trilogy of sonnets on existence, Anna, alternately depressing and hopeful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you, Paul. I do believe that is how I felt, alternately, as I was writing them.

      Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you so much, David. It is an honor to have you come back for another read!

      Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    Very nicely done, Anna. I see that you are comfortable with causing an attentive reader to elide or not elide as necessary. Instances of the former are “casual” and “memorials,” which must be elided. Instances of the latter are “dazzling” and “temporal,” which must be sounded out to the last syllable. I might add that I am particularly fond of poems with substantial metaphysical leanings, and you have done as good a job here as I have seen in quite some time. My synapses are firing like the nighttime sky on the 4th of July.

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you, C.B. I have recently grown more comfortable with expecting this of attentive readers, for some reason. 🙂

      Thank you for the compliment; I am pleased with the effect these sonnets had on your synapses.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        It’s impossible to think of or to experience anything that does not cause a lot of synapses to fire. And that, I think, is a good thing.

      • Anna J. Arredondo

        I suppose then that it is superfluous to exhort my children to “use their brains”, as I am fond of doing… 😉

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    These are such profound thoughts, very artistically woven together, setting forth humans’ eternal nature and our simultaneously frustrating finitude. “And ragged ribbons of a life unfolded / Adorn our empty, echoing insides.” and “My soul clings to the dust that constitutes / The substance of its temporal abode” are my favorite lines.

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you for the feedback, Cynthia. Frustrating finitude is precisely what I was wrestling with as I wrote each of these in turn. Thanks for sharing your favorite lines as well. “My soul clings to the dust” is a phrase I came across in the book of Psalms (119:25) a good while back, and subsequently jotted down with the aim of using it someday… 🙂

      Reply
  4. James A. Tweedie

    There are many fine lines in the set of metaphysical ponderings, but any good poem, like a symphony, needs a final “ta-dah” at the end. And in this you have done well for my favorite lines are the final two:

    Ideas blossom into sweetest fruits,
    Through time and into bright eternity.

    When ideas are rooted in eternal truth, they will indeed not only blossom and bear fruit, but that fruit will remain ripe and sweet forever.

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, James. These sonnets/stanzas do not appear in the order in which I wrote them, but rather in the way that seemed best to me, after a good deal of pondering. I am pleased and relieved that you feel this had the right “ta dah” at the end! And I’m thankful to be rooted in eternal truth in the midst of the occasional mortal melancholy.

      Reply
  5. Paul Freeman

    A lot to ponder with this three-sonnet poem.

    My fave line: ‘The present’s now; we blink, and it is gone.’

    We look at time as a flowing river, and you’ve looked at the intricacies inherent in that flow and how we perceive it, Anna.

    Thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you for your comment, Paul. I’m glad that line stood out to you. Despite all the advice out there on mindfulness and living in the present, it seems the most impossible place to ‘be’ — by the time my mind has processed it, it’s already the past.

      Shortly before writing that middle sonnet, I came across this quote from Jorge Luis Borges: “Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

      Reply
  6. Cheryl Corey

    Your second stanza, with lines like “ragged ribbons of a life unfolded” is my favorite.

    Reply
    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you, Cheryl. I’m rather fond of that “ragged ribbons” line, but wasn’t sure it would make sense to anyone else. I’m glad you liked it!

      Reply
  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Anna, this is a beautiful sonnet series which is an absolute privilege to read. It speaks to my heart of the significance of the spiritual as opposed to the physical aspects of existence. It’s a feast of sumptuous images that illustratesthe destructive constraints of time which makes the hint of gifts in the third poem all the more glorious. Very well done indeed!

    Reply
  8. Alena Casey

    This is beautiful. Tying our existence to the imagery of a plant as you did in III is an effective and striking way to convey the metaphysical thoughts here. I love it.

    Reply
  9. Margaret Coats

    Anna, I am most impressed by the structure of “This Side” as a single poem. I see you said you did not write the parts in the given order or at the same time, and that works in your favor. Each portion has its own theme and tone. As an observant and truthful human being, you made the right choice for final stanza, but imagination (Part I) and accumulation (Part II) could have changed places. As you have chosen to place them, the arrangement is symphonic, or fast/slow/fast, and unique, because the slow section of becoming encumbered is exactly the one that moves too fast for satisfaction. The speaker is thus motivated and empowered to look beyond both dreams and things. The structure helps you create a successful philosophical poem that merely suggests the side of things still unknown. A praiseworthy meditation!

    Reply

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