Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Jack Ross’s ‘Time’


No time but the present. That’s not quite it, is it? No time like the present is the usual phrase. Do it now, in other words – don’t put it off. But, as H. G. Wells’s Time Traveller explains so clearly in the story, there’s no such thing as an instantaneous object: it must have duration, as well as height, length and breadth, in order to be perceived (let alone possessed) by us. Now is a moment which is over so quickly that it’s only perceptible in the rearview mirror, as a part of the long spool of experience unwinding behind us. So all we really have is the past – that is to say, the memory of what is already done and dusted. But do we have that, even? It’s no longer with us, so I’d have to say no – all we have, then, is that quavering moment, poised on “Time’s toppling wave,” in W. H. Auden’s phrase. But since we can’t perceive it till it’s over, you could argue that all we have is anticipation: the prospect of what the next moment will bring. You’d think that might make us a bit less greedy: less determined to collect the leavings of all these moments, past and to come, and more prepared to enjoy them to the uttermost. We’re only conscious for a small part of the time allotted to us: there’ll never be any more of it, so let’s dance. 

Jack Ross


Jack Ross is the author of eight works of fiction and six books of poems, most recently The Oceanic Feeling (2021). He was managing editor of Poetry New Zealand from 2014-2020, and has edited numerous other books, anthologies, and literary journals. He blogs here

1 thought on “Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Jack Ross’s ‘Time’

  1. Richard Taylor

    A very good piece! Yes, it seems we have only one time. We cannot know for sure, nevertheless, it seems that way. So just in case we should eat those delicious meals more slowly and thoughtfully. Sometimes though Jack, we have “the time of our lives!” as well! BTW you may know that James Gleick writes about time in ‘Time Travel: A History’ and he refers a lot to H.G. Wells’s book “The Time Machine”.



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s