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by Souchong 

Posted: 24 September 2006
Word Count: 108

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hangs off the second-hand of the clock, never quite slipping
skulks in the doorway, refusing to come in, go out
drops mud on the mat and tells me
blackberries in October belong to the devil

lips pursed in concentration
time dismantles the driving gear
examines the cogs, the springs
shakes his head
iím not an expert, he says
it lies in pieces on the worktop
tells me nothing

the door swings shut
time out
Ďyou pays your money and you takes your chanceí
no refund, should have read the small-print,
no walking backward, life unlearning

rattle the doorframe, time,
howl at the wind, yammer
and remember

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Comments by other Members

NinaLara at 09:58 on 25 September 2006  Report this post
Dear Souchong,
I like this very much especially

blackberries in October belong to the devil

which seems to set a wonderful, cynical, dark feel to the whole poem.

The opening verse is very effective - tired if time.

The only verse I'm not sure about is the second - the personification of time taken a little to far for my personal comfort here! It also seems to be about 'time' rather than connected to an individual. The final two verses, for me, are much more interesting because they seem to be telling the story of someone's life.

James Graham at 17:46 on 25 September 2006  Report this post
Hi Souchong - The first verse suggests to me an actual moment which sets off these reflections on Time: I imagine someone coming home with muddy shoes after blackberry-picking, and the whole train of thought springing from that. Even if you didn't intend it to mean that, it's one of the interesting ways poetry works - some readers might see that in it. The poem seems very grounded in Autumn, from the blackberries to the wind at the end, and it works well for me as a general reflection on Time springing from an Autumn experience, an Autumn moment. This is the season when Time tends to insinuate itself into our consciousness.

I don't quite agree with Nina about the second verse. There's something uncomfortable about it, but it seems to me a very original personification of time as a kind of cack-handed fixer who can dismantle things, make things fall apart, but can't 'repair' either our personal lives, or human history. To me it seems a striking metaphor.(Should the second-last line there be 'leaves the pieces on the worktop'?)

One more line I'm not sure of - wouldn't 'no walking backward, no unlearning' be better? I think you have to be a bit cautious in the use of the word 'life', especially where it's obvious the poem is about 'life' anyway. And 'no walking/ no unlearning' makes a nice parallel.

Am I right in thinking the last four lines are a kind of cry of defiance? Time, do your worst. We may not be able to beat you, but we'll defy you at least.

It would be easy to write a cliched poem about 'Time', but there's a freshness about this one - partly in the way you link the broad theme of time to some very immediate, 'lifestyle' things, e.g. the 'repair man', and the idea of 'no refund, should have read the small print'.


Elsie at 19:26 on 28 September 2006  Report this post
Hi Souchong, I liked this. There is something odd in the second stanza, I think it's around here:

shakes his head
iím not an expert, he says
lies in pieces on the worktop

Maybe it's because I'm wondering who/what lies on the work top, which is tricky as its a metaphor. Enjoyable read.


James Graham at 19:08 on 29 September 2006  Report this post
Hi Souchong - your explanations are very interesting and open up the poem even more. The poem itself, the more I think about it, is an interesting and novel 'portrayal' of time.

But I still can't quite get my head round 'lies in pieces on the worktop'. In this part of the poem you have personified time as a person - an incompetent repair man - whose lips are pursed, and who shakes his head and says he's not an expert. This adds up to a very clear image of a person - but how does he manage to end up 'in pieces on the worktop'? Is he dismembered? If he's 'in pieces' in the sense of his nerves being in pieces, why 'on the worktop'? Then, 'the door swings shut/ time out' suggests the departure of this personified Time - not too easy if he's in pieces!

I think the poem would lose nothing at all if you left out this line:

lips pursed in concentration
time dismantles the driving gear
examines the cogs, the springs
shakes his head
iím not an expert, he says
tells me nothing

Time's half-hearted attempt at repairing the clock, as you've explained it, is a really engaging idea, with all sorts if implications - philosophical implications about how we understand time and whether clocks even have anything to do with time. It's no surprise that Time is no expert on clocks. I think the line 'lies in pieces on the worktop' just introduces a little confusion, sidetracks the reader a little, and your personification of Time would have more impact without it.


Souchong at 20:42 on 06 October 2006  Report this post
sorry for long delay in replying, james. i have been computerless (and bereft!) for a week. steep learning curve for me. ouch.

thanks for your interest in this. sorry i haven't been clear enough.
the line in question is simply referring to the clock - and the idea that if you dismantle a clock it actually tells you nothing about time. i realise i have confused matters a little by merging time with the clock at that point and not making it obvious.

maybe i need to say
'it lies in pieces on the worktop
reveals nothing'?

best wishes

James Graham at 14:56 on 08 October 2006  Report this post
Yes...the 'it' does it - now it's clear the clock is in pieces. It's sorted - the poem, if not the clock!


Souchong at 16:26 on 08 October 2006  Report this post
thanks james. time and comments much appreciated

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