When I Get Time

by Thomas L. Masson

(Note: there are some old terms in this poem that some younger readers may not be familiar with. I’ll explain them at the end of the poem for those who are interested. I’m sure the content will be self-explanatory and most of us can relate to it at any time).

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When I get time –
I know what I shall do:
I’ll cut the leaves of all my books
And read them through and through.

When I get time –
I’ll write some letters then
That I have owed for weeks and weeks
To many, many men.

When I get time –
I’ll pay those calls I owe,
And with those bills, those countless bills,
I will not be so slow.

When I get time –
I’ll regulate my life
In such a way that I may get
Acquainted with my wife.

When I get time –
Oh glorious dream of bliss!
A month, a year, ten years from now –
But I can’t finish this –
I’ve no more time.

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Explanations:

Cut the leaves of all my books — When the poet says he will “cut the leaves” of all his books he means he has not read them. (The “leaves” of a book are pages). Publishers once left the pages bound and there could be two or more bound together. The reader had to take scissors, or a sharp knife, and cut them apart in order to read them.

Owed letters to — Remember “snail mail”? Very few people write letters anymore now that e-mail and texting and Facebook and whatever else is out there have come into their own. Years ago, however, handwritten letters were a standard form of communication. And if someone wrote you a letter, you “owed” them one back. The poet is saying he has gotten very behind in his correspondence.

Pay those calls I owe At one time people would visit each other regularly, and if someone paid you a visit (a call), you owed them a return visit.