The Gears Moving Forwards and Backwards, Then Stopping

Sun, 09/26/2021 - 22:49 -- woila

First draft of our second poetry assignment for Creative Writing, required to be in some way inspired by John Berryman's Dream Song 14.

Dated: 09/22/2021

Overall I would say I'm rather ambivalent about how this turned out. Though I'd intended to write a fairly short poem, the words ended up running all down the page into this little pile that I think might be closer in execution to a short story. I also think I'm running into a "Chuck Palahniuk" problem: I've got a strong default voice, but no clue how to write in a different one. (At least, that's the impression I got from reading "The Haunted". Sorry, Mr. Palahniuk.) Also, the metaphors are a little too blunt.

That being said, I think it's got a nice ambience.


For the first time I decided to intentionally include spontaneous tense-switching, a writing transgression I've always particularly hated, in an attempt to convey:

1) a "coming madness" and transposition somewhat like that found in Dreamsong 14;

2) to play (perhaps too basically...) with the general idea of time and how we perceive it. More precisely, it's just a haphazard attempt to convey the general way the brain "pops" impulsively from one thought/image/memory to the next, déjà vu, and the protagonist's transition from his present to past self in memory. Perhaps I ought to replace that technique with a stock "slow fade from black" animation. Or make some low-hanging-fruit comparison to the rolling of the tides, or something like that.
Who are you calling pretentious? It's, like, time dilation or something, maaan! Relativity! Like in that Queen song or whatever! Totally far out!! :-] )


Needless to say, I don't think my professor's gotten around to reading it yet.



The Gears Moving Forwards and Backwards, Then Stopping



I’ve got a lot of time, but it’s all gone out.
It’s all gone out by the tail of the train’s horn
It’s been carried down in the shrouded fog,
Away to the graveyard of a thousand timepieces.
“Here lies Hortense. He lived slowly
and died quickly.”
He slept in an unpacked plot.


Then there’s gone the week and the horn sighs again, down with the recessive sun, and I’m drawing forward to the light on my alarm
Hunched and blackened over my desk
turning over-and-over
a gear of brass in my inky hands.


It’s there in the rubbed-bronze glare of the dusk, too.
I’m trying to keep note of its position and see where it hides
when the train pulls into the station,
but I’m not letting another day hide from me.


And so I stepped onto the platform.
“Here goes—“ I stepped into the car,


and there saw all the novel travelers who then looked back at me.
(Brave and fancy, they were, practically outside!)
And with that I retreated
to my rear cabin in the shade.


I awoke with a start to a tinkling. Having thought I was in the morning,
I went and reached to my tea and EXTRA paper
and found an extra body.


The train-servant had come to bring me some tea.
It was bitter, with no daylight in it.
It darkened all the way to the bottom of my gut
yet lied at the last sip
shimmering and rippling, waving down the dead-man’s-algae in the teacup’s bottom.


I saw my wrist in the saucer’s reflection;
I realized my watch had stopped some time ago.
And I hadn’t heard a thing since I’d been inside the train (I’m getting desperate here and I really need this watch.)
I needed to ask:
“Please, does anyone have a spare?”
But they have their things to do, and their places to go.
They’d been there longer than I, even if they were younger,
and they didn’t need watches where they were headed.


So I stepped off that mistaken train and off to the — Oh, so it is night —


I shattered my wrists when
I broke my fall off the car.
The watch, of course, was gone.
I’d lost all of it except that gear,
and a part of the face that’d stopped at midnight.


I pocketed it with my good hand
and I crawled back home on my knees
flayed my jeans crossing the tracks across from home. (The train wasn’t yet due, or I’d be
frayed along the sidewalk instead of here alone.)


And now I’m here at my desk, turning this gear in my hand
(I drew a clock-face on my cast,
and all the time lines I’d penned on it as the hours went
because that empty plaster had bothered me.
It looked like a spider web, trying to decide which corner to draw silk on.
Three, six, nine...)


Where’s my freedom all gone to?
Somewhere away with the sound of the train,
there in the very last car.
It’s cradling an empty bassinet.

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