The day is short

The day is short.
An encroaching chill extends its eaves over our bent figures
As we dawdle on the site of construction.
Through our limbs creeps a petrification
That weakens our hands and tamps down our response
To the grandeur of the work before us.
We want nothing more than to crouch to the dust and forget the reward at the end of time.

What to do?
Hasn’t the world been fixed yet?
We lift our arms again, but every futile gesture just brings more dissension.
Far away we hear the foreman’s imprecations,
But the master plan eludes us.
The day is short.
We have already forgotten whether we were guaranteed a pay scale.


Rabbi Tarfon said:
The day is short and the task is large.
The workers are indolent and the reward is bountiful,
And the master is insistent.—Pirke Avot II: 20

Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute,
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more.—From an 1854 hymn by Annie Louisa Coghill


This poem appears in the June 2020 issue of Orbis.

Andy Oram
June 13, 2020

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