Friday, February 29, 2008

THE GIFT OF TIME (sunday scribblings)

In the year before the calendar changed its digits
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
smoked
or drunk hard liquor
or gambled.
But Daddy prized his watch for its to-the-second accuracy.

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.

11 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

True time keeping. Best gift..

timely intervention

Crafty Green Poet said...

nice post, clocks are of course time machines

keith hillman said...

What a delightful piece. A totally different take, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Redness said...

Oh what a beautiful post ;) Thank you so very much, you've left me smiling, lovely ;)

Robin said...

I love the way the method of keeping time changed through the course of the piece, and of course your life, while the time that was being measured remained a constant.

Great take on the prompt.

anno said...

I loved the image of your father with his headphones, tuning his gold watch via the crystal radio to the exactitude of the Naval Observatory. My father, an engineer, has always valued precision as well.

Your closing line was just perfect.

Beautiful poem!

wwamazon said...

What beautifulwriting. My father in law is a clock-smith. their living room is surreal - twenty or so chiming clocks that all tune in together every hour.
-amarettogirl
http://amarettogirl.squarespace.com/the-written-word/

sister AE said...

What a fun post! It makes me think of the Cinderella watch I have tucked away somewhere. It was my older sister's and by the time I found it the blue band had already faded mostly to gray. It was never terribly accurate, even when I kept it wound. I don't think it works at all anymore, but I'm not ready to get rid of it.

Kristin said...

Oh my darling! You have me in tears again. Tears come when your poems rearrange my insides, opening the doors and windows to images and feelings only now remembered, with sadness at the passing of time (like racers nearing the finish line..)and joy at making your acquaintance at earlier ages. I adore you as a little girl ("witch-watch" indeed) watching her father, listening to his stories, remembering. How alive you were and are. Boo hoo. You are so precious!!!

Preethi said...

Lovely time keeping.. loved the post!!

My time capsule

Just Jen said...

your memory astounds me! How do you remember anything in kindergarden? I can't remember yesterday! I loved the 'witch watch' that is too prescious!