Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If It Ain't Broke...


After the moment has closed the hour
there will be no other.

The clock will close time
as we close a finished book.

We shall be caught
in some foolish moment of our doing:

raising a hand to strike,
breathing, chewing.

All the ticking in life
will stop

and the eyes of the mind
have a final knowing:

no more metric feel, or sound,
or measure will be—

no deadline to hurry to, or miss—
except this one.

(first pub. in Cape Rock Quarterly, 1967)



One man
cannot sit in front of a machine
to stop it from killing the ground.

The machine is not alive.
It can outwait him.

The machine cannot feel the
grass break
underneath its huge body;
the machine cannot breathe the
endangered flowers.

It waits like a law
for someone to take the man away.

The machine cannot weep with rage
like the man
who would use his life
to protect the field.

It may be
the only field left to love.
The machine cannot love.

One man
cannot, with the whole world’s voice,
make any warning.

               *          *          *

If you put one bird in front of
many mirrors that reflect it endlessly
it is still only one bird.

(first pub. in Prairie Schooner, 1971)


(After "The Alarm Clock, 1940" by Dora Maar)

Time leans on its shadow
on a shadow-dial—measures
nothing but the word we give it.

Time is a question mark—
a yellow rule—a dot in a circle
—a shark-fin circling the mind.

Time, we call it, and it
keeps unwinding—this nothing
that we give so much credence to.

We give it clocks and clocks
and clocks of hurry,
but it stays—or moves—

which, is not known,
nor of relevance. We fear it,
mostly—waste it, always.

(After "The Black Marble Clock" by Cezanne)
The clock has numbers
but no hands,
so time is unimportant.
Light is bigger than the dark,
the trappings heavy.
What’s there is there, useful to depict.

Nothing breaks: the cup that teeters
at the edge,
the vase,
the shell,
the folds of cloth
that rumple to the floor.

The future is crowded into a lifetime,
the gold light thick and heavy,
layered to oblit the background
crowding forward,
past the clock—
the silence that is caught.

Everything is stalled,
the future given
everything it needs
from symbols of the past,
everything meticulously layered—
the subtle layers built to permanence.

(first pub. in Tiger’s Eye, 2009)



A wide, red staircase, three men choreo-
graphed, seven stairs apart. They glide

toward the top as if in a dream. The dreamer
watches them ascend. The dreamed men

do not deign to see her bracing against a
handrail. The stairs become an escalator,

moving away from her. She stays in one
place. The men file past—identical and

mute in dapper harmony, hands behind their
backs. She places one foot on the next

moving step. The men turn their heads in
her direction. The escalator turns into a

staircase—red-carpeted and steep—no top
and no bottom to be reached.



This wheel to this sound.
Intense vibrations. A borrowed word.

How slow the day
through its traffic of souls,

its absences,
its magnifying glass upon the silences.

This clock has stopped upon
an important moment,

as if all our lives
were made of stone.

I have kept the secret clean,
polished it into its variousness.

O poem of words that fall where they fall.
It is only the beginning.


Today's LittleNip:


When it came time to love I took its machine
apart and checked for lies, which were vague
with disillusionment, but I believed them.

The machine lay disassembled,
in methodical order: the heart at the center,
surrounded by all the other parts.

I studied them for accuracy:
the nerve-endings raw and the mind
not clearly instructed.

Still, I knew it was reliable:
if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,
came the old reminder.


—Medusa, with thanks to the healing Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix! Our new Seed of the Week is Fire! What's on fire? Is it a structure, or the forest? Or is it you: love and desire, anger, poison oak? Send your combustible poems to kathykieth@hotmail.com, or go to Calliope's Closet at the top of this page for older Seeds of the Week; no deadlines there.