The Clock

Big Ben

The Timex on my wrist, the old Seth Thomas clock on the wall that rings the hours, and the small, black electronic cube that sits on my nightstand beeping at six AM have been with me always.   They not only denote the hour and the passage of time, they have been the enemy. I have fought with them constantly.

Stop the clock. I’ve run out of time. It’s time to eat, time to sleep, time to feed the dog, pick up the kids. Time is short, too long and are we there yet?  Forever in a hurry, I was constantly running.  But somehow I was always on time or even early getting to the places I was supposed to be.  Why didn’t I have ulcers?

One afternoon while reading a good book and needing to be at an appointment in fifteen minutes, I caved in. Tired of rushing and feeling rebellious I kept on reading even as the clock ticked away.  I finished the chapter, got in the car, and drove to my appointment.  I was only five minutes late but I had been overwhelmed by anxiety on the way, thinking I’d be terribly late.  I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone, my stomach churned filled with a load of worry stones, and I didn’t know what I’d been thinking.

Like a drunk who finally hits bottom and knows that the sauce will kill him soon, I knew that if I kept running the way I did,  it would be the end of me.  I’d crash the car, fall off a cliff and/or my heart would simply quit because it couldn’t keep up. My life was a train wreckwaiting to happen.

Changing my pace has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  But somehow I’ve managed to slow the train, though it can still be easy to fall back into old habits if I’m not careful.  I do still have occasional overly busy days, but if I’m feeling overbooked I reschedule an appointment or two for another day when things aren’t so hectic. I’ve learned to say no to the one more thing that will tip the scale sending me into overwhelm and yes to breathing deeply and taking whole days when I don’t have to go anywhere but stay here and tend to whatever I want and need to do. I love those days the best and manage to get to my writing with time to spare for a nap, to garden, or read.  I still worry about being late once in a while, but I’m also beginning to trust that the clock does sometimes run slow and I’ll arrive in plenty of time without being frazzled.

I wrote this poem back in 1993 in the heat of my war with time.  I’m so grateful that battle is over.

The Clock

A tranquil pool reflects
As only water can
The confection of moon
Star lanterns
Show the way down
To the mouth of a cave

A tattered moth
Hands me her flame
Tells me to wait
Just inside at the edge
For a ferry to deliver me
To the middle of night

Aboard the vessel
The oarsman leers
With eyes that glow
In burning sockets
His mouth overflowing
Knots of squirming eels
I hold the flame closer
Easing my fear
A solitary owl hoots
At the sight of land

I am lifted to shore
By rigid talons
Left on the sand
Where a porcelain clock
Elephant high
Stands guard
Naming the hours
As they race around
An eroding track

The clock strikes twelve
Spilling sleeping cuckoos
Severed hands
Frantic numerals gather momentum
Left without time
Lifting the flame to possibility
I ignite the ticking sky

jzr, 1993