Time Pieces

i. haydn’s clock

The mainspring
uncoils,
the intricate
interlocking gears
mesh perfectly,
the elaborate
eighteenth century
Bavarian clock
counts off
the seconds, minutes and hours.

The chain is pulled
by an unseen hand,
infused by love or
sublimely indifferent.
From Epicurus via Lucretius,
translated by Newton,
orchestrated by Haydn,
the classical universe
counted infinity
on the jeweled movement
of its hands.

ii. The Chrysler’s Disbributor Cap

We had a 1949 Chrysler
that my dad drove ’til it died.
In the late fifties we used to drive
over the Cahuenga Pass
on the Hollywood Freeway
to visit my aunt
in the San Fernando valley.
The car had a faulty distributor cap
that would pop off erratically,
stalling the car.
We never knew when it would happen,
only that it would,
like his anger, which smouldered
under passivity until it exploded
like a car crash on a deserted street.
That violent, unpredictable anger
said everything about the man.
He never brushed his teeth,
rarely took showers, had smelly feet
and died when I was seventeen.
And when I think of him,
I remember, above all, his
anger, ticking away like
an unseen clock going off
with the maddening irregularity
of the distributor cap popping
in heavy traffic, on the
long uphill grade toward Barham Blvd.
on a smoggy summer Sunday
on the way to the valley.

iii. Elke

Every morning at exactly 5:15,
fifteen minutes before the
alarm goes off at 5:30,
Elke bites Phyllis’s feet
to wake her,
then sits by Phyllis’s pillow
purring loudly
until Phyllis gets up,
goes into the kitchen,
and feeds her half a can
of food.

iv. Larry’s Dream

“Watch,” Luke’s playmate
screams, pointing. “Somebody’ s coming
on something!”
Luke squeaks around the corner
on a sit-down hand scooter
contraption, smiling.

Seated at the dining table:
to my right, Lucretius,
no madder than I;
to my left, Newton.
Across the table, Einstein.
Each in his own world,
those worlds converging.
We join hands.

“Are we on time?” Newton asks,
and we all laugh.
“Better late, than never,”
Lucretius replies.
Einstein’s fingers tap
lightly on the table:
Haydn’s “Clock.”
He smiles.

Time dissolves.
Einstein prays.
Newton admires the
elegance of his notion.
Lucretius weeps at
the infinite, stark
and sublime.
Luke sings the
William Tell Overture while
Elke eats a spider
on the floor.

Phyllis is cooking supper,
not in the least surprised
that against all odds
this random superposition
of possibilities
coheres.

It’s dinner time.

12/10/89
Los Angeles

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