Watches

Alistair Elliot

I wear my father’s last but one
wristwatch, having broken my own.
Its crazed face, its wild cricketer’s strap
always slipping off,
its inability to keep up
with the regular and not excessive

marching speed of the universe
explain his buying one of those self-winders:
he was a busy man
and couldn’t afford the soft unclear
evaporation
of minutes, a day or two a year.

The busy man winds his watch on
as he drives, writes a prescription,
taps a sweating back.
But later, sitting for hours
rehearsing from his notebook
the names of French birds or Italian flowers,

he had to remember to keep
the watch from going to sleep,
swinging an arm over the side
of the blocky uncomfortable chair.
The first time the watch died
would have been a puzzle, then a small despair.

Later it would be worse: to realise
he could not give a watch its exercise.
So it ran down and somewhere waited
for the moment of moving on,
when watches are fastened to related
wrists, and time marks time again.