American Life in Poetry: Column 332

I’d guess that nearly everyone is aware that time seems to speed up as we age. Whenever I say that something happened ten years ago, my wife reminds me that it was twenty. Here’s a poem about time by the distinguished Maryland poet, Linda Pastan.

Counting Backwards
How did I get so old,

I wonder,


my 67th birthday.

Dyslexia smiles:

I’m 76 in fact.

There are places

where at 60 they start

counting backwards;

in Japan

they start again

from one.

But the numbers

hardly matter.

It’s the physics

of acceleration I mind,

the way time speeds up

as if it hasn’t guessed

the destination—

where look!

I see my mother

and father bearing a cake,

waiting for me

at the starting line.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Linda Pastan, whose most recent book of poems is Traveling Light, W.W. Norton, 2011. Poem reprinted from Nimrod International Journal, Awards 32, Vol. 54, no. 1, 2010. Rights granted by Linda Pastan, in care of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. Introduction copyright © 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.