The Horologist’s Dream of Silence
A watch stripped of all embellishments
and the vanities of his craft. A masterwork.
Last night he dreamt of it again. In the strange
half-light of his workshop time breaths
in his hands. He leans down to it slowly
as though listening for the heartbeat of a child.
He hears an orchestra of whispers there: the spinning
wheel and spindle, the move and counter move
of the ratchet, the centrifuge of the hammer.
It is time made audible as music or a sound so pure
it is the closest he has come to silence. He listens.
All the lost voices of his childhood return
from the darkness, the crack of gunshot in the streets
at daybreak, the heavy boots climbing the staircase.
If he could only tell them he survived he might
redeem their sacrifice, make time whole again.
He rubs the sleep from his eyes – will go on trying.
I Crept Out
It was half past eleven on a weeknight you were sleeping
and I thought the day was far from over but I felt it wouldn’t
have much purpose however much I stretched it if the extra hours
I wrung out didn’t involve you so I kissed your eyelids
then crept out in soft shoes and I stole this white-legged horse
for you. It wasn’t easy and ever since his restless tail’s been
flicking at the wet recesses of my eyes so you keep asking
if I’m crying but I can’t answer because I always have to creep off
to distract him from his incessant foot stamping, in case you hear it
and while you watched the evening news I crept out to feed him
the spoils from our small kitchen. I gave him grapes and seeds
and oat flakes from my palm and I sang our song to calm him
while he was eating and I’ve been busy muffling up his snortings
with fake coughs ̶ I’ve had to take up smoking so you don’t hear him
blowing and suspect that I stole a colt and and have him stabled
in the bathroom of this two-up two-down brain. Some days when
I’m lonely he reaches me by neighing and it stays in my eardrums
reverberating so forgive me but at times I can’t make out a word
you’re saying and every day I get these surges of exhilaration
thinking how this chunky white-legged creature is the perfect
demonstration of how much I think you’re worth and I can’t stop
myself from visiting him, I creep out quite often now and I’m not
even missing the bits of our shared life I give him.
A Beautiful Day
It was madness, sheer madness. Any sane person would have been out of there, downing a pint in some nearby pub or tucked up at home in front of a good soccer match. But here we were at the old power station across the border, arse-deep in a river, the rain lashing down on us. Fishing. I had never done it before. The cast and spin, the trail and flick. I hadn’t a clue. And the patience it took. Nothing was happening. Nothing. Everything around me seemed to have a negative mindset. The river, the rain, the wind in the drenched trees, the fish, if there were any. Part of me knew that if I could see myself from the road, I would be thinking, ‘What a nutter!’ I’d always thought that about men I saw fishing, especially ones arse-deep in the middle of a river in the lashing rain.
Another part of me was beginning to get into it. The rain ran off my bulging cape, the waders kept me dry. I still had my problems with the casting, but slowly I was acquiring a kind of technique. My younger brother Jim was the expert; Danny was his side-kick. Jim showed me five minutes of the basics, then said he’d leave me to get the hang of it. He kept an eye on me, shouting bits of advice across at me. Most of what he shouted got carried away with the rain. But being with the two of them began to feel good. Each one of us covered our own stretch of the river, still somehow connected like a set of navigation points.
When I got a bite, Jim rushed over. ‘Hold tight. Bring her in nice and easy now.’ He stayed with me until I had it in the net, then waded out into the river again. Getting the barb out wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I tried to twist it out humanely at first. But no way. Then I ripped it out. I didn’t look at what I was doing. Just did it. The fish still jiggled a bit until I used the stone.
But Danny’s salmon was the real thing; landing her lasted about half an hour.
‘Don’t let her break away!’ Jim screamed. ‘She’ll snap the line. Hold on to her.’ He kept his eyes on the way the fish was manoeuvring, the way she played the line. ‘Let her have plenty of slack, Danny. Jesus, she’s a big one. Let her run with it.’
Jim was beating through the water; Danny did his best to do what he was told. They’d been friends for years, fixed up cars together. And women. That’s why they understood each other better than Jim and I ever would
‘I think she got away, Jim. She’s not pulling any more.’
‘She’s a clever one, Danny. She’s still there alright. Hold on to her. She’ll be back in a minute. There she goes!’
I could hear the jerk that went through Danny’s rod, thought it would snap in two as a bright flash shot out over the grey of the river. Something inside me wanted the line to break.
This fish deserved to live. But no way was I going to say that.
‘Tire her out, Danny! She’s giving you a run for your money.’
The tail of the fish was kicking in the water as she hit out at whatever was holding her back. I could feel the energy in her, defiance in the way she struggled.
‘Okay, Danny. Wind her in. Nice and slow now.’ The fish bolted at the first tug of the line and shot off. The reel whirred loudly as the fish drew the line with it into deeper water. Then something jammed.
‘Fuck it, Jim!’
‘Hold on, Danny!’
Danny’s rod looked as if it wouldn’t hold out much longer. Jim waded through the water and belted the locked reel with the side of his fist. It must have hurt, but the line was freed.
‘Wind her in again now, Danny. She must be nearly beat.’
This time my younger brother was wrong. As if she had heard him, as if the only thing she wanted now was to prove how wrong he was, the fish took off again. Danny was splashing after her, trying to keep up.
‘She’s a good one.’ Jim rushed behind him, laughing. ‘She had us good’n fooled that time.’
She didn’t want to be caught. Every fibre inside her was primed against it. But each time she pulled on the line, the barb lodged itself deeper in the roof of her mouth. That was how it worked. Even I understood that now. If she hadn’t managed to snap the line when her energy was at its peak, now that she was tiring, her chances of getting away were gone. All Danny had to do was let her flag herself out and then wind her in. Eventually he got her into shallow water again and Jim heaved her out.
Her tail still flapped. She was a magnificent creature, dappled and shimmering with lost life.
‘Jesus, there’s some weight in her. I can hardly hold her. You got yourself a whopper of a one there, Danny.’
Jim cradled the salmon in his arms while Danny worked at the barb. There was no way it would come out easily. She flailed and twitched as Danny’s hands worked at her mouth.
‘Fuck this, Jim,’ Danny said.
‘Give it a good hard jerk,’ Jim told him.
The shock kicked through the fish’s body, then it lay motionless.
‘Some prize for a day’s fishing.’ Jim held out his arms full of fish. ‘You’re a lucky fucker, Danny Gilmore.’
A year later Danny was shot in the back by the Paratroopers. He was running away from them. Everybody was running away, trying to get behind something solid. The bullet went in one side and out the other. Danny gasped and toppled forward. A priest, waving a white handkerchief, crawled over to him to give him the last rites.
After Danny’s burial, they would find his mother in the middle of the night with a blanket over his grave, trying to keep the cold off him.
All work copyright the authors © 2013