Me: Here, or There?

“Time isn’t circular. . .It’s like a. . .palimpsest.”

“And memories are sometimes in the future.”

–Kate Atkinson, Life after Life


James Abbott McNeil Whistler, “Nocturne,” Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons


Looking back, older but not yet done–

then, there, I see myself a young child.

Did past or future end–or has one just begun–

life stories entwined, or is time unreconciled


then? There, I see myself a young child

so, I wonder if my path was fated,

life stories entwined? Or is time unreconciled,

to choices immutable and slated–


so, I wonder if my path was fated–

did I always marry my high school sweetheart—

choices immutable and slated?

Or did time and roads lead elsewhere for my counterpart?


Did I always marry my high school sweetheart?

Was I always the me I see?

Or did time and roads lead elsewhere for my counterpart?

Could it be there’s another world with–or without–me?


Was I always the me I see?

Did past or future end, or has one just begun?

Could it be there’s another world with or without me?

I’m looking back—older–but not yet done.


Happy New Year! A pantoum for my prompt today on dVerse.

If all goes as planned, the prompt should be live at 3:00 P.M. (EST). Come join us!











74 thoughts on “Me: Here, or There?

  1. I don’t think memoirists think of time as a palimpsest, part of our history “erased” to make room for the next. And if time isn’t circular, it doesn’t make sense (to me) that memories can occur in the future. At my age, time seems more and more circular. So, I’m being contrary today. :-/

    HAPPY NOO YEAR, Merril!

    • I don’t think I said here that time isn’t circular, only that there could be multiple time lines. And if there are multiple timelines, then in some, the events would have to be different. I like to play with what if.
      The quotation comes from a novel, not a memoir. And, I loved the novel. 🙂
      In any case, Happy New Year!

  2. I’m looking back….older but not yet done. YES! It’s interesting….i read or heard a few days ago….someone questioned why time seems to go by faster as we are older (I’m in my 7th decade). And the answer the person gave is that one’s life is divided into parts — and, for example, at 70-ish, probably 3/4 of it has been lived…which means there is only 1/4 left and it takes much less “time” to go through 1/4 than 3/4 of something. Interesting way to look at it. For me, I remain thankful for every day! 🙂

    • Thank you, Lillian. I read or heard that, too, a few months back, I think. When you’re a child having to wait for something for only a few days seems soooo long, but as an adult, you think, oh, OK, that will only be a few months. 🙂 But of course, for a child, it is different.

  3. Nice done, Merril. 🙂 I often think about those different timelines (or alternate lives… if they exist). Just imagine how many there would be after all those crossroads and decisions. Mind boggling.

  4. I love how the imagery of the palimpsest in the quote plays along with this poem because each verse is almost like your washing away the ink of the previous and writing afresh with just the one line.

  5. OK. 1. Life after life is one of my favourite books – I just finished a re-read before Christmas. And when I read your prompt I thought of it, but then went somewhere different.
    2. I love this, and the pantoum is the perfect form for this – the repetitions, but with the slight change in meaning with each repetition reflects the sense of the poem. It’s very well done.

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, Sarah. I recently finished the book, and honestly, I wanted to just start from the beginning and read it all over again. I thought I had to write a pantoum for this prompt. I’ll be by to check yours out in a minute.

  6. This is such an intriguing possibility: Could it be there’s another world with–or without–me?

    with the discovery of other planets and galaxies, I always think and imagine, another world with different time frame, existing along ours.

    I love the imaginative response to time and space Merril. Thanks for hosting.

  7. Oh I like the “entwining” and repetition so much in this piece. The form with it’s repetition and juggling of lines fits perfectly with the theme. Time may be more mysterious than we think!

  8. I saw the painting by Whsitler before I read the poem. It’s one I’ve not seen before and I love it. And then I read your poem, Merril, which I also love! The way you’ve used repetition, punctuation, line breaks and caesura in your pantoum is so effective in conveying the idea of being ‘not yet done’, seeing yourself as a young child in entwined life stories or unreconciled time, and the uncertainty of it all. It made my head spin!

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful comment, Kim! I think Whistler did several different “nocturnes,” but I liked the idea of the clock and its reflection for this. I think other pantoums I’ve written haven’t played around so much with punctuation and line breaks, so I’m so glad you liked this one!

  9. Intriguing to ponder but no answer can be expected. Especially for big intersections in one’s life, I can’t help but wonder what if. Excellent prompt today and your response for dverse.

  10. Billions of galaxies and infinite number of timelines in parallel dimensions–a lot of food for pondering. This was a thought provoking illustration to your prompt (thanks for hosting). I’ve always felt that Other Me’s in other timelines has the time to perfect my talents and creativity that there is not enough time for in just one lifetime.

    • Thank you very much. I’m not sure that I’ve mastered it. 🙂 I like pantoums. I think it’s like any form–some we like and some seem very difficult. I think sonnets are difficult, but some people seem able to just toss them off quickly.

  11. A pantoum is a good choice of form for this poem musing about fate and “what if?” It implies that there might be some things that we cannot change, even if we went back in time. Some lines are “fated” to be in a certain place in the poem of our life.

  12. Those are tantalizing questions. I wish there’s a time and place where we can see all the choices we had and missed. Then again, I wonder if that is even a wise wish.
    The form was perfect for your theme of is it the other way around? In any case, this piece is lovely.😊 Happy New year. Thanks for a lovely prompt.

  13. What if indeed. Like that James Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The possibilities of other lives is an intriguing thought. The phantoum is an excellent form for this. Thank you for hosting.

  14. your opening quote here is so beautiful, and your first prompt for 2019 sets such a lovely tone, looking back and forward, what if’s are always on the mind, you chose a most suitable form for your reflective thoughts, well done!!

  15. A fine meditation on time and memory, fate and the errant fancies of un-godded history. The form weaves the needle of attention back and forth, so that we are presented with a multiple fact — me — present and not in the world. Ego’s singularity declares there is one ring to rule them all, but nature is plural, a me among many. And each time the pen dips in the river there is another vantage, almost a life.

  16. This was engaging Merill. Opens the question I ponder about time, from time to time. Are there alternate universes, and are the other me’s pondering the same thing? Hmmm, I wonder…

  17. Pingback: Lifetimes in retrospect – DoodleScribbles

  18. “Was I always the me I see?” That is my favorite line. I imagine myself looking in the mirror and asking myself this question. What changes have occurred to bring me to the point where I am now? For surely I have not always been what I now am.

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  20. I love poems like this… “tricky poems”… poems that ask questions, leaving the reader to muse and ponder for themselves. Nicely done.

  21. Hey there! I agree with the multiple comments about the brilliant choice of a pantoum for this subject, in fact I agree so much so that it almost makes me wonder if I have already commented… could an alternate me have had the same thoughts as an overlapping alter ego who lives in say… Sweden? Could I have been Bjorn again? And why did my mother, the Queen of the Amazon send me out into the world with a hot pink airplane with rose fire racing stripes? And why has my golden lasso turned into a parachute? Hmmmm.
    Well seriously Merrill, this is a seriously awesome poem and the repetitive form just wraps me in a dance between inevitability and happenstance, it dizzies the brain spinning until I just have to stop and flutter like Frank Tassone’s leaf and let go. I thought about a repetitive form for my poem, but chose the Shadorma for a click Tippety ahead rhythmic feel to the time question. We each deal with differently aligned aspects of the question. I discuss two rivers, yours unleashes a torrent. I love it. Here’s to Merrill, the next Dr. Who!

    • Your comment made me laugh. Thank you! “Could I have been Björn again?” 🙂
      I also appreciate your very kind words about my poem. Thinking about time makes my brain spin, too, but I like it.

  22. “older-but not yet done” … that’s like my mantra as I struggle with feeling like I’m always just starting, never done. The older I get, the more I feel this way. Love this poem!

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