by Robert Penn Warren
There's a grandfather's clock in the hall, watch it closely. The minute
hand stands still, then it jumps, and in between jumps there is
And you are a child again watching the reflection of early morning
sunlight on the ceiling above your bed,
Or perhaps you are fifteen feet under water and holding your breath as
you struggle with a rock-snagged anchor, or holding your breath
just long enough for one more long, slow thrust to make the orgasm
Or you are wondering why you really do not give a damn, as they trundle
you off to the operating room,
Or your mother is standing up to get married and is very pretty, and
excited and is a virgin, and your heart overflows, and you watch her
with tears in your eyes, or
She is the one in the hospital room and she is really dying.
They have taken out her false teeth, which are now in a tumbler on the
bedside table, and you know that only the undertaker will ever put
them back in.
You stand there and wonder if you will ever have to wear false teeth.
She is lying on her back, and God, is she ugly, and
With gum-flabby lips and each word a special problem, she is asking if it is
a new suit that you are wearing.
You say yes and hate her uremic guts, for she has no right to make you
hurt the way that question hurts.
You do not know why that question makes your heart hurt like a kick in
For you do not yet know that the question, in its murderous triviality, is
the last thing she will ever say to you.
Nor know what baptism is occurring in a sod-roofed hut or hole on the
night-swept steppes of Asia, and a million mouths, like ruined stars in
darkness, makes a rejoicing that howls like wind, or wolves,
Nor do you know the truth, which is: Seize the nettle of innocence in
both your hands, for this is the only way, and every
Ulcer in love's lazaret may, like a dawn-stung gem, sing--or even burst
into whoops of, perhaps, holiness.
But, in any case, watch the clock closely. Hold your breath and wait.
Nothing happens, nothing happens, then suddenly, quick as a wink, and
slick as a mink's prick, Time thrusts through the time of no-Time.