Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Clock


We divide the clock
Into pie segments
To show, self-indulgently,
We are masters of time.
Serving up plates, we
Apportion hours a la carte,
Spearing minutes with a fork.
Wistfully, we sip on seconds.
We park our legs high
On a chair, lean back,
Saying, this year I will do this,
Next year that.
But time yields to no master:
Heedless brute, it is an
Inexorable mule,
Spinning sun, ruthless.
Only a cosmic force,
Colossal as stars collapsing,
Warping space like plastic
Has the arm to rein in time,
Rearing neighing stallion,
Bull kept at bay.
Time answers to no one.
We answer to time.
Already it holds us
On a leash, shortening:
We strain forward;
It pulls us in.
Helpless fish,
We must forsake fruit
Just beyond our reach.
And we are bound to tell time
Our narrative when it ends.
Now the clock strikes:
Bells ring, sonorous,
Pure as childhood,
Shining as youth,
Florid as love,
Perfect as wisdom
…the spring runs out.

Originally published in The Furious Gazelle (September 19, 2014)

Grandfather clock face, Marines' Memorial Club & Hotel, San Francisco


  1. Photo courtesy of © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

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  2. Years ago I sent my antique wall clock to be repaired, but incompetent repairmen had further damaged it so that I could no longer enjoy the luxuriant echo of the quarter hour chimes. It seemed as if the silence of this broken clock stood for the despondency prevalent at the time in my life.

    Besides the wall clock, I own three watches, only one of which, a waterproof sports watch, I had purchased because it could not be so easily damaged while I regularly exercised.

    When my leather strap watch (not the sports watch) suddenly stopped, I quickly had the battery replaced, so that all three were soon ticking together again.

    I fancied I might purchase an additional fourth pocket watch for its quaintness.

    If I am unduly disturbed by damage to or any defect in my modest timekeeper collection, it might be because any interruption of their continuous operation subconsciously represents to me the control over time which I had so deeply lost at a critical juncture in my own life. I realize that my attachment to timepieces is a type of compensation, a defensive reaction to the traumatic loss of control over my personal time. Timekeepers represent the control over my life of which I had been so prematurely dispossessed when I was a youth.