Friday, June 01, 2007


He never knew the time of day.
The hours came and went, as hours
will, spangled with emphatic light
or schemes of indigo and gray;
the sober clocks in civic towers
rationed out Westminster bytes

at all the common intervals,
but virtual bronze became a riff
he barely heard, a blank tattoo.
Digital clocks? Hieroglyphic
ciphers, broken numerals
he didn’t bother to construe.

Yet Harry made his necessary
rounds without undue mischance.
Early, if ever off the stroke,
he treated all the arbitrary
skirmishes of happenstance
as some demented cosmic joke,

that is to say he chuckled at
the time-obsessed, dyspeptic souls
who hared around him in the street,
routinely late for this or that
unceasingly receding goal,
watches faster than their feet.

And so it went. Until his wife,
eyeing her anniversary watch,
decided it was time to go,
leaving him a fractured life,
dumb surprise, rocky scotch,
and time, time, vast and slow.

Pitiable creature, man,
in middle years, alone at last,
bewildered by his pots and pans,
the weight of his prolapsing past
all but crushing any thought
of why he needed what he bought:

clocks. Tall clocks, wall
clocks, antiques in wormy cases,
walnut, oak, escapements stuck,
he lovingly restored them all;
the moon’s phases lit their faces,
pigeons startled when they struck.

They stood in rows on every floor,
hung in every empty space,
the tick alone enough to drive
persistent clergy to the door;
none could summon up the grace
to hear the saved hymning five.

The old ones take a comfy tack,
relative, approximate;
they test the future, fully wound,
give us history when they’re slack.
Harry left the time unset;
he let the leather hammers sound

their music through the hours, full
meridians, all his minutes sweet
until the day he felt the pull,
knew his life to be complete.
Bells were ending. Bells began.
Harry died a happy man.

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