Norman Abjorensen


Have we met before?
Was this a question you asked?
Or perhaps it was I
who asked it. But, again,
maybe neither did:
I just imagined it.

Had we met before?
It’s possible, but when and where?
Does it matter, though,
when now is now –
a now that would be
no different if we had met,
or if we had not?
But would it really
be no different?

A now that has a past
is a now with a history,
an antecedent now,
perhaps a now with a consequence.
Does that make it a contingent now?

A now as a consequence
is not a spontaneous now –
merely a continuum, not a beginning.
A context forms, a narrative emerges:
we are part of something else.


Damn you, Sartre, for all your pondering the imponderable,
you have left us with the notion of the perfect moment.
In your definition, precise as ever, you have made us realise
that we can never know it.

Anticipate it, yes, and certainly experience it, but
after it’s gone, we are left only with some vague feeling
of past delight, now receding into time, form indeterminate.
We know the moment only at the moment,
but what it is we know, we know only then.
The moment exists only in the present – a present now past –
a solitary raindrop in the torrent of eternal time.

The memory is imperfect, the moment elusive.
Our fragile contentment is forever disturbed, we
inhabitants of a lingering uncertainty.

We wait for the moment: It comes and goes.
We remain the same, and not the same.
Damn you, Sartre.


I met myself the other day,
averting my eyes just as he did.

Scurrying away, I glanced back,
just as he did, a look both furtive and anxious.

We both knew, we were both embarrassed,
detected like this: each of us exposed
in the guilty secrets of identity.

He goes his way, I mine.
They are, of course, identical.

I wonder who we are?

Norman Abjorensen is a writer and poet, living in rural Victoria. His work has appeared in Fling Poetry, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Poetry Australia, Words and Visions, Aspect, Otoliths, Poetica Christi, Danse Macabre, Idiom, and the anthology, La Mama Poetica (Melbourne University Press, 1989). A collection, The Lives of Dwarfs, was published in 1988 (Fling).
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