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Monday, 22 June 2015

Nyla Matuk on Molly Vogel's "On Heidegger's Being and Time"

On Heidegger’s Being and Time by Molly Vogel

When I was fourteen, I wanted to play the violin. I did not 
have the discipline of my twin, her feet
dragging before her eyes down each stair early
before seminary each morning. My Mom accompanied her
on the piano, a remnant from girlhood that came before 
books and boys. Vanessa played while she thought
and Mom thought I slept upstairs.
I was listening: a book by my bedside and my black lab asleep
in my twin bed.

Now, I would hear Mother say. It is time, now is the time. Everyone 
is waiting for you. Your siblings are waiting for you
in the car. God is waiting for you, too.


The metronome tsks time. It is telling the now,
now, now, now. It is the quiet from the before,
the clamor of what is to come: four equally stressed
sixteenths. The details deliberate, the need for discipline
in the disparate. The phrasing of time being
robbed from one note to another. Refuge in order:
the absoluteness of a thing holding time, holding time
in time. Pointing to now, no, now—though the tick-tick sound 
has come and gone before it has come. 


Listen: one can only wait 
for nothing; nothing waits 
for no one. I know nothing, 
know no end 

from New Poetries VI © Molly Vogel

I’d only started dipping into New Poetries VI when I became convinced Molly Vogel’s “On Heidegger’s Being and Time” was a poem that would stay with me a very long time—which was quite possibly her intent for its readers.

The poem’s ending folds seamlessly back to its beginning (chronology being top of mind for me, I saw fit to look at the end as a possible new beginning) emphasizing a sort of volition-in-statis: at the end, the speaker realizes “nothing waits / for no one” and in the first stanza, the speaker’s sister, Vanessa, played piano “while she thought / and Mom thought I slept upstairs.” These perceptions, of life or events moving along regardless of the doings or sleep of the speaker, anchor the poem’s idea of time moving along despite the state of being itself. It’s almost as if the speaker is both aware of her being-in-space while simultaneously aware of her non-existence as events unfold.

And as if mocking the speaker’s lack of discipline and volition to learn piano, the mother speaks as though she were a metronome marking time: “Now I would hear Mother say. It is time, now is the time.” I read here a nod to time being wasted, too, the non-piano playing daughter simply marking the time passing as observations of someone else’s piano lessons without actually doing something else instead.

In the second stanza, the poet observes a perception of pure time; of what it does and that it is always already removed from the present. This echoes the idea I noted above, of an existence always being superfluous and inconsequent to time’s movement. The metronome is enlisted to mark the moments that move: “It is telling the now, / now, now, now.” Indeed, the “tick-tick sound / has come and gone before it has come” and it’s likely the reverse of my thinking on this may be true about this poem: that it is not being that stands still, while events occur irrespective of it; rather, time faithfully marks a now that can be pinpointed while one’s being, in the penultimate line, knows nothing and knows no end. So the constant here might be time’s undeniable moment to moment presence; our being must work around it. If “nothing waits / for no one” we’ve perhaps arrived at a zero sum game.

Much as I have always wanted to read Heidegger’s Being and Time, like the speaker in this poem referring to piano playing, I’ve never had the discipline. It’s possible Molly Vogel has obviated my need to read that book altogether with this rich meditation.