“Time After Time”
Time after time
I came to your gate with raised hands,
Asking for more and yet more.
You gave and gave, now in slow measure, now
In sudden excess.
I took some, and some thing I let drop; some
Lay heavy on my hands;
Some I made in to playthings and broke them
Till the wrecks and hoards of your gifts grew
Immense, hiding you, and the ceaseless
Expectation wore my heart out.
Take, oh take – has now become my cry.
Shatter all from this beggar’s bowl:
Put out the lamp of the importunate
Hold my hands, raise me from the
Still-gathering heap of your gifts
Into the bare infinity of your uncrowded
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali poet, playwright, musician and essayist, who wrote about everything from spirituality to politics to science. He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The first time I read this poem, it shattered me, like the mirror it held up so I could see myself. In Tagore’s words, I saw my inevitable posture toward God – hands stretched out in supplication. Though it has been many years and I’ve made a real effort, not much has changed. Though grateful for my blessings, I am often aware of a perceived lack, that little extra “something” that would make my life better. Sometimes it is material, but often it is just a change in circumstance for me, my family, or the world. When I read this poem, I could weep with shame at my greed and blindness. Though healthy, educated, happily married with three children and the means to support them, surrounded by friends and family who love me, living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, I still want more. More youth, more opportunity, more security, more excitement, more clarity. You name it, I’ve probably desired it.
To me, this is a poem about the privilege of having more than we need, more than we’ve earned, more than we can use and still believing that it’s not enough. Blame biology, culture, or consumerism, but our automatic response is to ask for more. This poem reminds me that my “scarcity” is a farce, my “gratitude” is lip service, and that what I truly need is ultimately right here with and within me.
This poem convicts me, but finally ends on a hopeful note. I believe the Presence will come and deliver the gift of itself. After all, it has been waiting to be asked for just that all along.