How are we to understand our Life?

How are we to understand our Life?

Dawn of Freedom



How long is a man’s life, finally?

Is it a thousand days, or only one?

One week, or a few centuries?

How long does a man’s death last?

And what do we mean when we say, ‘gone forever’?


Adrift in such preoccupations, we seek clarification.

We can go to the philosophers,

but they will grow tired of our questions.

We can go to the priests and the rabbis,

but they might be too busy with administrations.


So, how long does a man live, finally?

And how much does he live while he lives?

We fret, and ask so many questions –

then when it comes to us

the answer is so simple.


A man lives for as long as carry him inside us,

for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,

for as long as we ourselves live,

holding memories in common, a man lives.


His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch:

his children will carry the weight of his love.

Our friend will carry his arguments,

another will hum his favourite tunes,

another will still share his terrors.


And the day will pass with baffled faces,

then the weeks, then the months,

then there will be a day when no question is asked

and the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach,

and the puffed faces will calm.

And on that day he will not have ceased,

But will have ceased to be separated by death.

How long does a man live, finally?


A man lives so many different lengths of time.


Brian Patten

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