How I Rolled Over When the Century Did - Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free.

How I Rolled Over When the Century Did


This poem appears in the Winter 2019 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.


On the last night of the last Century,
My true love rolled into bed with me.

I felt her flank against my flank,
For which I had the Lord to thank—

Which Lord? Of Good Rule? Lord of the Moon?
Lord of the Century on us soon?

A third of the world in small warm wars,
None of which happened to be ours—

Just yet. A third of the third dirt poor
Despite the stock market’s pulling power.

Too much attention to politics
As if there were nothing else to fix—

Other things still not right in our house.
In a dream I stepped on a small gray mouse

Which squealed and went limping into its hole,
No way to help it, body or soul.

As for my own soul, did it exist?
Or had it turned Existentialist?

To this one, answer came there none:
The Age had swallowed us one by one,

Except for whatever we each could hold
In our hearts to keep them from getting cold:

Like Ishi, the Last Wild Indian;
The young Miss Emily Dickinson;

The old, mischievious Robert Frost;
Greek statues recovered that had been lost;

Young women painted by Jan Vermeer;
Our grandchildren when they’re up here.

(Fill out your own Retention List
And you won’t go Existentialist.)


Now the Twenty-First Century’s first dawn
Came spilling its pale yellow-gold upon

Maori and Pakeha, brown and white,
Beamed westward at the speed of light,

To open and close on the flats and steeps.
And still my true love beside me sleeps,

Her thighs to mine, her body curled
As if at the start-up of the world.


John Ridland was born in London and emigrated with his family at age two to California. He completed his PhD at Claremont Graduate University and went on to teach English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for forty-three years. His publications include A Brahms Card Ballad: Poems Selected for Hungarians (2007), Happy in an Ordinary Thing (2013), a new verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Night (2016), and Epitome & Epiphany: An Abstract and an Afterpiece (2017)

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