Extracts from

The Waistband and other poems


Broken clocks and watches were my father's hobby,
Killing time, he'd say, no irony intended, -
So grandfathers loitered dumbstruck in our lobby,
Hands salaaming as if begging to be mended.

Testimonial tokens of lifetimes on the job
Added to his pile their grateful mollusc gape.
Stammering snuff-stain waistcoat fob -
Tick corrected by puff and scrape.

Eyeglass squinched, he'd read the auguries,
Pronounce and whistle, arrange his tiny tools,
Wind the watch until we'd hear it wheeze,
Teaching me to prod among the cogs and spools

Though my cack-handedness loomed larger through his glass
He didn't mind the knack not passing on
It's a stoic pastime, letting time pass,
He knew with quartz and plastic his day had gone

Now Dad's hands are slow and he's lost his spring
His face is scuffed by the emery-paper years
But he can value a clock by its pendulum swing
Or a watch, by the tact of the tick, that he hears

And on Sundays sometimes we still repair
To smile at every bang on the mantel chime
So many hunched gloamings unwinding there
My father and I keeping perfect time.


© Donny O'Rourke, 1997