So Many Different Lengths Of Time Poem by Brian Patten

So Many Different Lengths Of Time

Rating: 4.5

How long does a man live after all?
A thousand days or only one?
One week or a few centuries?
How long does a man spend living or dying
and what do we mean when we say gone forever?

Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.
We can go to the philosophers
but they will weary of our questions.
We can go to the priests and rabbis
but they might be busy with administrations.

So, how long does a man live after all?
And how much does he live while he lives?
We fret and ask so many questions -
then when it comes to us
the answer is so simple after all.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man's scent, his touch:
his children will carry the weight of his love.
One friend will carry his arguments,
another will hum his favourite tunes,
another will still share his terrors.

And the days will pass with baffled faces,
then the weeks, then the months,
then there will be a day when no question is asked,
and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach
and the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased
but will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live after all?
A man lives so many different lengths of time.

Monday, March 9, 2015
Topic(s) of this poem: funeral
Tom Allport 30 July 2017

a wonderful poem that like a piece of string a man will not need to know the lengths to go? .......well written Brian.

3 1 Reply
Stephanie 21 October 2020

As Ian, looked up from recommendation by David Haig. Same comments. I find elegiac poems as

1 0 Reply
Ian Metherell 20 October 2020

Recommended by David Haig in The Times. Thank you, Brian, and David. Would a feminine version simply replace 'man' with 'woman'?

2 0 Reply
Chris Gwilliam 11 June 2019

Read by Brian Patten at the memorial service for his friend the poet Adrian Henri a beautiful poem

3 0 Reply
Robert Owen 23 June 2018

As well as for Ken Dodd it was used at the funeral (yesterday) of my Uncle David Roderick Hall. Not a dry eye in the chapel of rest.

1 0 Reply
Ross Smith 28 March 2018

A poignant reminder of our life and the passing years Heard it today during Sir Ken Dodds` funeral service at Liverpool Cathedral

1 0 Reply
Brian Patten

Brian Patten

Liverpool / England
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