we bought (as a gift to us) an atomic clock.
Cessium atoms quivered in Colorado, to relay radio signals
that told the second-hand when to jerk from mark to mark
around the clock-face disk that hangs now on our wall,
framed in polished wood like school-room clocks that I remember
from when another century was young.
Back then my father, earphones clamped to head,
would tune his crystal radio to Naval Observatory frequency
and listen for the beep that marked the hour.
The gold watch in his hand was reward his father gave him
for turning twenty-one without having
smokedBut Daddy prized his watch for its to-the-second accuracy.
or drunk hard liquor
At kindergarten age I asked for a “witch-watch.”
(I knew it would be magic).
My sturdy Ingersoll, nickel-encased, kept time for me
for fifteen years or more. I wound it daily.
Only in more recent years
--the years that have accelerated
and now rush past like racers nearing the finish line--
only in recent years did I wear a little Casio
bought at a drug store for thirteen dollars,
quartz-accurate, with digits instead of hands
and battery driven--no need for winding.
Its accuracy was my pride,
its correspondence to airport clocks or television times.
We watched our new clock respond to its cessium master,
atomic, inexorable, relentless.
It’s accuracy, they said, to one second in one-point-four million years.
I can live with that--
but not long enough to check it out.