A riddle

We all have it and know what it is, but can’t define it very well.


What can fly, but has no wings?
It’s on your hands and ages things.
There’s one for bed and some for meals.
It’s often kept, and sometimes heals.

There’s one for everything under the sky*:
One to be born, and one to die;
One to mourn, and one to dance;
And one to speak, given half a chance!

There’s one to weep and one to laugh,
Ones to mend or tear in half,
One to demolish, and one to build.
It leaves a vacuum that cannot be filled.

It’s sometimes troubled, sometimes bad,
And desperate ones will make you sad.
But it has a nick that you can stitch –
Perhaps the good and bad will switch?

It waits for no man, marches on:
Before you know it, it is gone.
It is used up but can’t be stored;
Too much of it and you’ll be bored.

When on your hands, you speak of killing it
Or wasting it, though never spilling it.
And if it’s up, it has run out –
So what it is, you’d best find out!

You’ve spent a little of it reading
What I’ve written. If you’re needing
Help, the clue is in the rhyme:
The word you’re looking for is what stops everything happening at once**.

* Thanks, Ecclesiastes (3:13), though I’ve left out your more violent examples.
** Thanks, Albert Einstein and/or John Archibald Wheeler (Google seems undecided, but in his 2017 book The reality Frame, Brian Clegg says JAW had seen the phrase as a graffito, and that a very similar phrase occurs in Raymond King Cummings’ sci-fi novel The Girl in the Golden Atom).

 [Image: phillipbrande.files.wordpress.com]
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