The Boy in the Clock


On what day did the Seeker, that foul-shaped gangly
Figure, weep and belly-crawl toward me
Forward winding? In craven eaves, in parsley fields,
I wrinkled sleeves, running, running,
A bare-foot straw sock stuck fast and wide
While crows were nodding, nodding, nodding.

The mansion breaks the parsley skirting; my mouth
Is panting, low, unsightly. A butter cloud of moths
Were dancing, and caught my cheeks with tender tags
Of sickly salt-pan glister. With baked stone walls I 
Pushed the tail-bone, and time was wailing fast before
Me, it scratched my back into a cup of clawing,
Chasing fingers.

He seeks me still in wooden boxing, under sweating
Hands are shaking; time atop my crush of raven
Swings a hefty, dullsome, tune. Knees were pulled far
Up and rounded, domed and white, and jade, and black,
Stuck and stinking fragrantly, the skiddish slums of slime
Betrayed me- sleeves were dirty, hot, and green.

With backbone slinking down the body, the clock
Grows loud with muffled strumming. In front, the crack,
The door before me, small enough to wholesome hold
Me, blanks the mansion's putty light. Arms that longly grope
The run trail, scoop a crackle from the door frame;
Ones that pester, hound and perish
With longing, longing, longing.

Β© copyright Eve Redwater 2011

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34 thoughts on “The Boy in the Clock

    • Thank you Joe. If anything, I hope that in some way it spoke to you — it doesn’t matter whether you understand it fully or not. The most important thing for me in regards to my work, is that people take something away from it. That makes it personal to the reader; and that’s what I want the most.

  1. I’m an appreciative student of poetry and it’s such a pleasure to find a young person who writes it. I think your work has great potential – you have a great instinct for seeing things in an unusual light and for the kind of juxtaposition and compression of images that makes for fine poetry. I also like the way you use color. I’m sure you are familiar with Dylan Thomas – some of your material reminds me of him! I haven’t read many of your poems yet, but I plan to work my way through them! Keep it going!

    • Hello Lorinda, thank you for visiting my blog again.

      High praise indeed that I remind you of Mr. Thomas – it warms my heart that you think that. And thank you for your kind compliments! I’ve always described my literary brain as being just that little bit older than it should be. Half the time, my friends and family aren’t sure what I’m talking about!

      But still, a big, big, thank you to you, and I hope to see more of you soon.
      Take care,

      Eve

      • Hello again! I can’t say that I understand every one of your images and progressions, either, but I also don’t understand Dylan Thomas that well sometimes! All really fine poetry has to be studied over time to be be appreciated. Even as deceptively simple a poet as Robert Frost has layers of meaning that need to be penetrated, as for example “The Road Not Taken” or “Stopping by Woods.” I happen to have been reading a lot of Thomas lately – I just got permission to use some quotations from his works as chapter epigraphs in the novel I’m getting ready to self-publish. If you want obscure imagery that yet hits you right in the face (and if you don’t know it already), try his long piece “Ballad of the Long-Legged Bait.” And one of my favorites of his is “Especially When the October Wind,” which is more controlled and quite comprehensible, but you do have to study it.
        The only thing that keeps this type of poetry from being successful is if, after careful and lengthy study, the meaning is impossible to penetrate. The poet understands what she means, but she has to be careful not to be so oblique that the reader becomes completely frustrated and put-off.
        I hope you don’t mind a little discussion of this nature. I’m thrilled to find somebody I can discuss this sort of thing with! And I wish I could write your kind of poetry – I’ve never been a particularly adept poet!

  2. @Lorinda,

    I’ll be sure to take a look at those, thank you for recommending them! I’m glad that I can discuss such things with you too. I certainly don’t want to frustrate my readers, but at the same time, I want to preserve my voice. I’ve worked hard over the years, and feel like now I’ve finally developed a voice that makes my poems distinctly “mine”. However, I must always remember to think of my readers, and I value their thoughts and feedback. It’s a struggle to be three people at once when writing. The writer, the reader, and the critic. I just hope that in some small way, I can get the balance right, and that people will enjoy it.

    • Eve …
      After I wrote my earlier post, I thought, that was not very good advice! You do have your own voice and you write the kind of poetry that emerges from somewhere deep inside. To get too conscious of the result might inhibit your gift. Just let it flow! You can always revise later. Dylan Thomas wrote what I consider some awful, wild, incoherent stuff that makes absolutely no sense (dare I say, I suspect he might have been drunk when he wrote it, and then never went back and revised it?) I think you write the poetry of inspiration and not construction, and that’s the best kind! You can be the writer, and you can try to look at it from the reader’s point of view, but for godness’ sakes, don’t write for the critics!

      • Not to worry Lorinda!

        It’s good, solid advice I think. It reminds me how of how important readers like you are to my work. If I didn’t have you, I’d be a tiny, tiny fish in a massive murky pond. I appreciate your words wholeheartedly. πŸ™‚

  3. I think what’s appealing to me about imagery like this piece’s–where, as your other correspondents note, you don’t spoon feed us any obvious storyline–is that there *are* potentially a number of storylines in it. I started reading it with a certain set of characters and images, then switched to another possibility, then another, and ultimately, thought *any* of them *might* be “right”. The choices of word and phrase create flavors, moods, and evocations that are abstract enough to contain a number of meanings but still make *me* feel certain ways that lead me to choose particular meanings. If that makes any sense itself!!

    • Hello Kathryn,

      Thank you for your lovely comment. I’d really love to know how this one made you feel – though I understand the personal side to reading poetry, etc., so I won’t press you for it! Knowing you felt a little something while reading this is enough praise for me. πŸ™‚

  4. I just re-read “The Boy in the Clock” and I’m going to hazard an incomplete interpretation – tell me if I’m anywhere near what you intended. This poem is about time – time that pursues all of us toward our death. Time is the Seeker, the Boy in the Clock, who is a snakelike figure – suggested by “gangly,” “belly crawl,” “winding,” “with backbone slinking down the body.” There are two locations – the parsley fields and the mansion. I think the parsley fields are like in Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill” – the green fields of youth taht seem unending. The mansion and the wooden boxing are the things of reality that capture and restrain and disillusion one – they might represent the case of the clock. That’s as far as I’m going today, except to say two things: I particularly like the lines: “A butter cloud of moths / Were dancing, and caught my cheeks with tender tags / Of sickly salt-pan glister.” In the spring here where I live in Colorado in the USA we have a lot of miller moths, and when they bombard you, they leave this rather nasty dust all over everything.
    But I also want to say that Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill” is also about time catching up with one – the last lines I particularly love:

    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
    Time held me green and dying
    Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

    • Thank you Lorinda,

      As not to reveal the complete meaning to other readers, I will confirm that a few of your interpretations are spot on. The box is the clock itself, and the boy runs into it in hiding. The two locations are also correct. The Seeker is the assailant.

      Thank you ever so much for your thoughts. I’m glad my work can inspire enough to get the mind-cogs moving!

      Also the passage from “Fern Hill” is beautiful. I aim to familiarise myself with more of his work.

      Best wishes as always,
      Eve

    • Hello, Oliver.

      Thank you for stopping by my blog! The rhythm… well, honestly, it is something that appears within the words as I’m writing.

      It’s something I strive to improve, with each piece I do, and there’s always room for improvement, I think!

      Best wishes,
      Eve

      • Hi, again, Eve! This post got me also thinking about the rhythm of your poem and I can see resemblances to Gerard Manley Hopkins and his sprung rhythm. I’m sure you’re familiar with Hopkins’ gorgeous, colorful poetry; if not, see the collection in Bartleby.com, particularly “The Windhover” and “Pied Beauty.” The article in Wikipedia under the topic “sprung rhythm” is excellent.

  5. Hello Lorinda!

    I will most certainly take a look at Hopkins, thank you for recommending him! I’m grateful for your suggestions, learning and developing new forms is important to me.

  6. ‘I wrinkled sleeves running running …’ – ‘… wrinkled sleeves’ was an excellent locator.

    Forgive me: is the boy, fresh from college, study finished, time to work for the rest of his life, sat at his desk, in the sunny office, first task before him, and as he rolls up his sleeves, the quiet carpet-cleaned horror of it fills his nostrils, the backs of his eyes run, but he sits and fits the tasks to the clock like a jigsaw puzzle, sweating slightly?

    Coruscating words.

  7. I’m relieved to learn from the comments here, that I am not alone in being confused by poetry. I have not read much of it and never write it. But I love wonderful prose, I love words that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. I love sounds that repeat and invite. I love verbal images. I find those things in your work.

    I particularly liked the imagery of this: A butter cloud of moths
    Were dancing, and caught my cheeks with tender tags
    Of sickly salt-pan glister.

    • Thank you Linda. πŸ™‚ I’m glad that you think that of my work, it means a lot to me. I’ve realised over time that I must be careful whilst writing my poetry. I understand now that sometimes my work can be a bit confusing – but in knowing that, I can make my future work all the better.

  8. I don’t get M Lewis Redford’s interpretations at all, but I already gave you, Eve, my interpretation of this poem awhile back. I just wanted to say that I have discerned a turn toward simplification in your later poems, namely “Parting Forever” and “Postman,” and I like that. It’s not that I don’t relish all the rambunctious, galloping imagery of your other pieces – that’s what reminds me of Dylan Thomas and Gerard Manley Hopkins. But a little more control can’t hurt.

  9. Whenever anyone, from this moment forth complains to me that “language is a lost art…” i will simply think to myself, “Butter Cloud.”

    I will not utter it aloud, for they will not get it.

  10. And may I share your “wares” with some friends?

    Oh wait, I forgot, that’s the point. Okay.

    But can I call you….

    “We’ve Traded”

    …from hence forward? (okay, not technically an anagram because I added an apostrophe, but shouldn’t that be within the anagram rules?”

  11. I’ve come back to read this a couple of times now, and I admit it is somewhat of a spooky poem. The alliteration and metaphors of the clock to time and the seeker, along with the internal rhyme, create a poem that deserves revisits. I am still thinking about the layers of meaning, but thought that at this point you deserve a word of praise.

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