Time Out of Joint
“What if memories were archived, and the archives were trapped between worlds? The fresh journeys that Teresa Carson’s poems take us through remind me of a pilgrimage into the misremembering of real places that were somehow lost. Very powerful and fresh, scripted spaces in the subjunctive tense, rather like Piranesi revisited. I deeply enjoyed her Time Out of Joint collection.”
Norman M. Klein
Critic, urban and media historian, and novelist
Book One: Visit to an Extinct City
Book Two: Metamorphoses, Book XVI
Poem from Time Out of Joint
Our Third Visit to Ostia Antica
In the necropoli, John photographs an opus reticulum wall
while I stand in a block of shade to check the map
for a shortcut to the synagogue—one of the oldest in the world.
On prior visits we’ve tired before reaching it.
Suddenly, I overhear a guide carp, as her fingers flick dismissal,
“The Romans wouldn’t have planted them; their roots lift paving stones.”
Her gaze incriminates the pines.
Averse to seeing things her way, I hurry on.
Why doubt that line also provided shade at noon
for not-yet Saint Augustine when he trod these cobblestones?
They fit my picture of a time and place unknown to me.
Why bring up practicalities?
Though I move beyond their sound, the shadow of her words
casts doubt on my belief that I can spot time out of joint—
same way art experts spot an arm that doesn’t belong.
Memory tugs on the sleeve of thought:
Hadn’t I, in an earlier poem,
singled out these very trees
as descendants of ones here
when Ostia was at its peak?
Didn’t I gush: unbroken lineage
eliminates “now” and “then”?
Thus, to touch their peeling bark
was to reach another century.
In the end, isn’t that what
I traveled here for?
Were umbrella pines even around in ancient Rome?
+++++Yes. Horace, Virgil, and Propertius mention them.
+++++Therefore, they must have grown in Ostia.
+++++A fact’s a fact.
True, true. But what about the fact you overlooked?
That many of the pines there now were planted for the never-happened 1942 Esposizione Universale di Roma, which Mussolini believed would show the world that fascist Italy was the rightful heir of the “wise and strong, disciplined and imperial” Roman Empire.
+++++I didn’t know . . .
But now you do.
The truth about the trees compromises my narrative.
+++++Which Time is this place?
+++++What past(s) happened here?
+++++Which me am I when here?
+++++How many things miss-seen/read/heard/understood to make things fit?
Eyes blinkered by a craving for
before since after terrifies.
+++++How many breaths have filled this space?
Believing too much/not enough.
+++++How many deaths emptied it?