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Posts Tagged ‘P.’

Night Shift

July 7, 2006 4 comments

The garbage truck of dawn calls me to rise and greet the new day; my daughter calls, in counterpoint, that she’s too tired to rise. My wife replies with discord. Outside, there is shouting: The weird old man from down the street paces the truck from home to home on his antique blue American Flyer, haranguing the stolid city workmen. Politics and children make me want to shout, too. I hope I never get that lonely.

by P.

Categories: Short Shorts Tags:

Dactyl, a Jig on Four Feet

December 1, 2005 3 comments

Upon the announcement in the journal Nature that some dinosaurs ate grass, which matters — to someone –because no one knew grass was around then to be eaten.

A…
Sauropod’s dancing on Jurassic grass; it’s a
Paradox, prancing in spite of its mass, for the
Experts all swore that the creature’s too old and the
Grass is too young.
But the dinosaur tries the strange
Fronds at its toes; it chews them and swallows six
Yards from its nose — if the mouthful is chewy it’s
Not a big deal, for a sauropod’s constantly
Hunting for meals.
Now the dinosaur’s stomach is
Coming around; brobdignagian muscles are
Brought to bear down, and in time an unspeakable
Solid hits ground and confuses the primitive
Insects.
The dust and the sands of uncountable
Weekends enfold the remains of both feaster and
Feast — till a diligent scientist ranging the
Plains cracks a rock, takes a look, thinks a bit, holy
–it!
In a lab near the lawn of a famous old
College, a squad of researchers are sifting for
Knowledge. The stuff that they sift doesn’t signify
Now — with antiquity’s blessing, it’s just coprolite.

Writings like these ought to come to a point, and the
Simpler the language the better: Indelicate
Things are most easy to speak if the label’s not
Plain, and the language is Greek.Written by P.
Categories: Science as Poetry Tags:

Time Piece

November 2, 2005 4 comments

My mother’s clock stands in my hallway now, as silent as it was the day she died.

It’s a “grandmother” clock, barely six feet tall, with traditional woodwork and a maple case finished with that opaque stain they used in the ’60s — brown and bland and quite unlike the rest of my grizzled oaken antiques.

The clock was one of Mom’s prized possessions. She had a fair collection of prized things, to be sure, but it spoke to me more than the figurines or the china, I think, because of the sense of fragility it gave me. When she got it, around 1965, she threatened us kids in the direst terms with what she would do if we were to break it, and in all the decades after, it survived running children, rumbling trucks, teen-agers jumping down the stairs, bicycles in the living room and God knows what else.

Its Westminster chimes ran their gamut rather quickly. Mom claimed she liked them that way. I never knew why she wanted the clock, except possibly because her mother once had one — removed during a ’50s modernization, so I never saw it — or because her sister-in-law kept a huge one in her dining room, where it loomed imperiously over Thanksgiving dinners. Perhaps Mom’s clock was merely the capstone to the renovation of the living room, which got a new floor, couch and chairs around the same time.

For at least a decade, the clock reproached me when the house was quiet and I was wasting time, mournfully tolled the hours when I lay awake in sickness or worry, and chanted the quarters when I wanted to read just five minutes more. Mom adjusted it and kept it wound, and I suppose it spoke to me as she would have: “When are you going to get your homework done!” or, “You need to take out the garbage!” I never thought of her as fragile, but I felt the most acute anxiety when my brother would run past the clock, playing with the dog.

I liked it more when I came to understand how an escapement works and what regulates the orderly gears behind the face. Once I had another epiphany when I understood how a vibrating crystal might drive a digital clock’s tiny chip to count to 65,000 some 85,000 times a day — but there’s nothing in a digital clock to see. Give me the measured tick-tock of the pendulum any day. Our clock always needed some adjustment, however, and I always took its assertions with a grain of salt.

It stopped not because of an accident but from simple wear. Years ago, it quit because a fragile brass part expired. Dad didn’t know what to do about it and let it sit for quite a while, till Mom got mad at him and complained, and I intervened to take the works away and have them cleaned and fixed. I was proud to do something for them an adult could do, for they were always so self-sufficient. About that time, Dad complained that he had never liked the clock, for it echoed through the house at night and disturbed his rest — and as he grew deaf, it was a half-heard noise he had to stop and listen to in order to identify.

By the time Mom died, one of the clock’s brass chains, the one that held the heavy weight that rang the hour, had disintegrated into a bagful of separated links. Caught in the coils of Alzheimer’s then, Mom may not have even noticed. But the hands stood still until Dad died and we had to break up the household.

Returning home in my own grief, I un-swaddled the clock’s case, reinstalled the works and spent an hour painstakingly reassembling the fragmented chain. I wound the clock and it chimed again!

I kept it going, with frequent attention to the pendulum and its inability to keep pace with a church clock half a mile away, for about six weeks. Then one day the repaired chain jammed in its gears and, for safety’s sake, I pulled out all the weights again.

I figure that if I restarted the clock in Mom’s memory, now I should let it be quiet for a while, in Dad’s. And then, soon, I will have it repaired — for my own sake.

Written by P.

Categories: Change and Continuity Tags: