100th Volume Retrospective: Perfect Timing by Diane Mehta

Diane Mehta is a freelance journalist and writer. She has previously published a book on writing poetry, and her debut poetry collection, Forest with Castanets, will be published in 2019.

Perfect Timing

by Diane Mehta


Imagine a moving train that gathers velocity

in increasing intervals of distance and time,

wind blowing from the northwest

at 2.3 miles per hour. Say you flung


a set of keys from the platform,

but as the train’s speed increased

the arc of the keys met its tangent

with a tambourine’s ring. The future unravels


in the distance between your outstretched arm

and the train’s smoke trail. The keys fall

in the aftermath of what could have been anything.

If he caught the keys perhaps you would not


be a teacher. I believe in physics.

Depending on whether your vantage

point is the platform or train,

timing is the mishap or perfection of time,


so even if you haven’t turned or paused,

you would still have thrown short,

or he would have dropped them,

startled by what he was seeing.


Inevitably, you would have the keys.


from Vol. 78 (1997)