Maggie Butt

Clock shop

Half-timbered shop with flagstone floors
where time is valued, weighed and priced: a yard
of minutes, pound of hours, seconds by the quart.

The clock-shop keeper holds the keys,
repairs the rifts in time, its unpredictability.
A wind-up world where nearly-there is good enough.

Never in silence, never alone, crowded
with the tushing -shushing of their sleepless whispering;
unsyncopated hearts, each tapping out its homely beat.

As we step inside, a welcome cry, the fastest
skips ahead to chime the hour, high and merry,
unrestrained, and at their leisure, in their own time

one by one the others follow suit, echoing deep
or long the simple one, two, three of afternoon,
a one, two, three of flannel-suited bright young things

filling hours with tennis, a one, two, three
of housemaids hurrying to boil up pots of tea,
a one, two, three of bank-the-fire for early winter dark.

The chorus of clear voices fades away
and falls to whispering again, taking their cue from
grandfathers with their smooth gold faces, on guard

around the walls, beating tortoise slow, waiting
for something to start or end, unhurried,
as if every second wasn’t measured, sounded, told.