Friday, May 10, 2013

Talking about Time

I've been reading Longitude by Dava Sobel. It's a wonderful book that explores the unsolvable problem of longitude (and answers a lot of my questions!). It remained a mystery for centuries. Until a British carpenter, named John Harrison, taught himself to make a clock that would maintain time on the deck of a rolling ship. Each chapter begins with a bit of poetry about time. I'm sharing a couple of my favorites so far.

Anastasia Suen hosts Poetry Friday at her poetry blog  today.

Photographer: Arne Nordmann (norro), Germany 
My Father's Watch
by John Ciardi

One night I dreamed I was locked in my Father's watch
With Ptolemy and twenty-one ruby stars
Mounted on spheres and the Primum Mobile
Coiled and gleaming to the end of space
And the notched spheres eating each other's rinds
To the last tooth of time, and the case closed.

From "Mystic Communion of Clocks"
in Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems
by Diane Ackerman

There being no mystic communion of clocks
    it hardly matters when this autumn breeze
    wheeled down from the sun
    to make leaves skirt pavement like a million lemmings

An event is such a little piece of time-and-space
    you can mail it through the slotted eye of a cat
    we all pretty much agree
    words just fret the bowed neck of time

So it's nothing to say that at 96 below
    on this lovely fall day in arctic Siberia
    a young woman carried home her daily milk
    not in a bottle but under her arm in a slab

Or that precisely at five o'clock in the evening
    the Trans-Siberian express tore streaks of iron
    from the vastness of nothing 
    and ran hell-bent to the extremities of nowhere


  1. I've read that Sobel book, so interesting the background of time pieces and the persistence of those who figured it all out, Dori. And Ackerman's poem (& her writing) is wonderful. I'll be interested in seeing what you have to share with time next!

  2. Thanks for participating in Poetry Friday!

  3. Both poems are so well-done! They're going in my e-poetry journal. Thanks, Dori.

  4. Time is a rich topic for poetry!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing, Doraine - loved both poems, and this line from the Diane Ackerman's particularly struck me:

    An event is such a little piece of time-and-space
    you can mail it through the slotted eye of a cat

  6. Hi, Dori. This looks like a wonderful book. I love the combination of poetry, science and history. Ackerman's poem appealed to me, too -- I thought of Einstein's trains and relativity.