By (author) Gil McElroy
Gil McElroy’s Ordinary Time sets out to give shape to time from four different referents.
Its first section, Chain Home,” preceded by a Spicer poem that perfectly captures the fearful ennui of the age, is both a childhood memory of growing up in the far-distant monitoring stations of the Cold War, like the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line of the High Arctic where McElroy’s father worked, and at the same time an unsettling history of the utter failures of these remote surveillance technologies to make our” world either better known or reliably predictable.
Its second section, counted out on the Julian calendar of classical antiquity, is prefaced by Merleau-Ponty’s assertion that the lived present holds a past and future within its thickness,” and discovers that it is our experience of movement through space that makes us aware of the dimensions of time.
Its third section works within the structure of the Anglican lectionary and its cycle of daily and weekly scriptures (called propers”), offering nine readings” of the days of the year not predetermined by canonical texts, to make manifest the arc of a complete year-long cycle of both Sacred” and Ordinary” time.
Its final section is introduced by Stephen Hawking’s observation that while we think of time’s arrow” as horizontal, there’s another kind of time in the vertical direction
called imaginary time
in a sense
just as real, as what we call real time.” Here, in what Charles Olson called the vertical act of creation, the poet turns back to the beginning of the book: the dark stars” emitted by the half-lives of radioactive matter carry the reader back to the book’s beginning, to the reassuringly grey briefcases we jiggle over great distances” in our attempts to guarantee our security and our place in the world.