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Hard Words: Everything Will Be All Right

Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, Scythians at Ovid's Tomb (ca. 1640). Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.

“Tempus edax rerum.”—Ovid, Metamorphoses 15.234

Edacious air, esurient sea!

What do those hard words mean to me?

What Ovid said millennia ago:

Time eats everything. Don't you know?

Being there or not to be,

Air and sea are agency,

Exit strategy, kitchen door.

It's a patient omnivore.

The subcortex may at first resist

For the reptilian level of the brain

Has one great purpose: to persist.

Invidious age devouring all,

A pain in the butt might well befall;

Sciatica bites there to appall.

Doggedly, do not to complain.

As they say, no pain, no gain.

Puzzled still which way to bet?

The old recall, the young forget.

Too drunk to fret, sober as most,

Follow suit all through the night.

Keep your doggerel in sight

Albeit its bark outdoes its bite;

Sully not the sacred lamppost.

Pascal's wager's* out there yet,

No rush in giving up the ghost.

Everything will be all right!


In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Irish public broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann ended its evening news broadcast with Derek Mahon (d. October 1, 2020) reading his poem “Everything Is Going to Be All Right.”

The lines flow from the hand unbidden

and the hidden source is the watchful heart.

The sun rises in spite of everything

and the far cities are beautiful and bright.†

†Derek Mahon, Collected Poems (Loughcrew, Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland: Gallery Press, 1999), 113.


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