A year older


Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

There’s been much said about what James Wright meant by the last line. For some, it means what it says – a wasted life, a regret. But in my mind, there’s never been any doubt that he meant quite the opposite. I can see him, lying in the hammock, his proverbial tongue in his proverbial cheek, gently laughing at those who rush and run. Laughing at those who think lying in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm is a waste of time. Because James knew, even then, that they were all wrong. That life was in watching a bronze butterfly sleep, listening to cowbells, and seeing the chicken hawk float home. And so he laughed and changed not a damn thing; just swung on his hammock as day turned to dusk. 

When I was young, I would stare at the clouds for hours with my school books open in front of me; Ma Baba kept the curtians drawn before an exam. And now, as I get on with this business of being an adult, I still find time to waste. 

It’s midnight now. July 22, 00:00 hours, the laptop tells me. Which means I’ve just turned a year older. Two sleepy voices, one big and one little, will sing me Happy Birthday in a few minutes. And there’s one thing I know for certain: I’ve wasted my life well. 

If you’re in London, and fancy joining me for a spot of time wasting, please drop by The Society Club in Soho on July 25 – I’ll be there for the launch of Structo Magazine’s new issue, and I’d love to meet you! Structo publishes a fantastic anthology of fiction and poetry, and I’m very proud to have my work in its new issue. I’ll be doing a reading from my story ‘Dancing in the Drawing Room’, which is part of the anthology (available online and in bookstores post July 25).

Details for the launch and reading, here, if you can make it!

Have a happy, wasted week, everyone!


17 thoughts on “A year older

  1. Your beautiful wish made me smile.
    No better plan, Soumya 🙂 Yes, let's definitely waste some time together soon. Hugs!

  2. Wishing you a very happy birthday and many blessed returns of the day Pia. I wish I was in London to hear you read, and rejoice in your success with you, many more reading and publishings to you, take care

  3. Make it a BIG BAD Wasted Day!! Joining in to wish you a happy one and a million more such dreamy dates with yourself.

    I love Love LOve LOVe LOVE the flowers in your pictures. They're absolutely the perfect ones. I could look at them and go on and on.. I'd please like to use the second one as my phone wallpaper (if you're ok).

  4. Hey Pia, loved your perception of the poem. Thanks for sharing!

    Wish you a little belated, but the best year ahead and congratulations on turning an year older! 🙂 I wish I could have been at the reading, eagerly waiting for the online version. I already know I will love it. 🙂

  5. Thank you for the birthday wishes! And I know I'll have you cheering me on for the reading from where you are, so that's what counts. Love.

  6. Thanks so much, lovely Fiona! And yes, please do use the photo as your wallpaper. It'll be nice to know a bit of my home is part of your day xx

  7. “…congratulations on turning an year older!” – I like your way of celebrating age 🙂
    Thank you, Meera. And I hope you like the story when you read it xx

  8. If that is what 'wasting time' means, let there be a lot more wasted time, for you and for me! 🙂 Beautiful post, as always. Like you, I believe in wasting time in the midst of busy-ness, too. It recharges me, makes me new.

  9. Happy belated birthday, Pia. I'm sorry to have missed you in London, but I'm determined to meet you, one day. You sound like you've wasted nothing, except time in the best possible of ways, with the best possible people. x

  10. Kyra, for the kindest, sweetest note, thank you.
    I have no doubt we would do well to meet. We must make it happen.
    Much love xx

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