The Friday Poem on 11/03/22
We chose ‘Wind-up people’ by Jacqueline Schaalje as this week’s Friday Poem because we love its masterfully pared-back narrative and its delightfully surreal edge. Each vignette covers so much ground, and Schaalje explores her central metaphor — the clock as heart, as life force, as time ticking away at the span of each life — in fresh and interesting ways. The imagery is arresting and evocative from start to finish, and especially startling at the end — oh those birds!
Coffee and cakes comforted us that morning.
The seam of her knickers rolled out
like spilt milk so I did some mending.
Stay for lunch, my mother said, but I left,
satisfied her clock was ticking
properly for the day.
My father’s laparoscopic keyholes were irking
his ribs. Right after lunch, we watched
the eighth episode of Hit and Run.
With Omer in the trunk and Assaf blowing
his brains out behind the wheel,
Dad’s clock wouldn’t have wound with
all the violence in the world.
Just the cup of espresso made it.
I found my friend L down to 36 kilos
hanging and pulling in PICC ropes,
the hospital nurses determined to plunge
liquids into her veins. Her clock was
slowing and I got afraid.
Then her boyfriend popped in and brushed
her threads aside with his counterweight
to kiss her. I watched as his careful winding
brought in her fluttering kite.
Back home, family sat around the table,
all expectant, clock ticking,
as if it were my birthday
which maybe it was — if everyone
didn’t drop so many crumbs
it could have felt this meal were my present.
I tried to do some work
that had to be turned in. Some digital
scribbles, barely enough to wind down my boss’
clients. She always says,
Feel free to take them around the clock.
Drop everything now, come to bed, said my partner
who was winding down and back up
all by himself between the plush sheets.
Before it’s too late, he said, thrashing his legs
like in a treadmill.
I’ll take over now, I said,
and soon his clock began to chime.
What’s the time, I cried.
Let me see your face, he groaned.
Shiny birds escaped our mouths.