Poetry October 2013

Ship's Clock

The ship’s clock, stowed in a box
for its passage to the beach each summer,
continues to chime every four hours
(first watch ... dog watch ... )
inside the cedar closet.

I look up from my desk and wonder
what that rounded sound could be,
then remember the clock,
all polished brass, still marking
the watches of a distant ocean.

So a prisoner might sing,
alone in a cell; or the songbird
serenade bright fronds
of leaf and fern, though caged
in the dark of a northern city.

The bird has its arias,
the clock its mathematics.
I string words together
wherever I am—
in planes, in waiting rooms—

forcing the actual to sink
and disappear
beneath the bright
and shimmering surface
of the half-imagined.

Linda Pastan’s recent collections include Traveling Light (2011) and Queen of a Rainy Country (2006). She lives in Maryland.
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