"It is the poet's job to remember"
Gerald Stern

Sunday, February 2, 2014


It is fitting that I should write this post on the evening we turn the clocks ahead. I don't profess to understand the relevant logic in this age to Daylight Savings, but it always seems to be such an ambitious ritual...lets jump ahead an hour in an attempt to get to the good stuff a little bit sooner, and the trade off is that lost hour of sleep.

It was certainly an ambitious ritual in my mother's house. She, a collector of old clocks, had many hour hands to turn ahead on this night. Tall clocks, short clocks, wall clocks, mantle clocks, china clocks, wooden clocks...many years ago we lost count...but I grew up in a house that ticked and chimed.

My mother tended them carefully, like inanimate housings with rythmic ticking heartbeats. I can still hear her often repeated instructions when I was old enough to be allowed the privilege of helping; "Don't force the winding, turn the key in half-turns, stop when it starts to feel tight and don't over wind....keep them level or the pendulums will slow and stop...never move them with the heavy pendulum attached....don't leave them unwound and idle because eventually their gears will cease to turn."

On the nights we changed the clocks, she would go through every room in the house, opening the glass over each familiar face, and moving the hour hand... which always had to be done clockwise forward. "NEVER move backwards!" In October, each clock would chime twelve times (or twenty four for those that also struck on the half hour) before the proper time was set.

My mother passed away last month. Many of her clocks will come to live in my house, ticking and chiming and as comforting as this motherless child can hope.

It is a good night to begin to go forward again. I'll try to remember not to force things, to stay level, to keep the load light. I'll watch my gears carefully...and do my best not to be left unwound.

(Linda Radice, March 2009)