sound in the clockman’s workshop – vale George

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‘Father Time’ – a portrait of George Prem at his work, by Leanne Murphy, 2018.

A small collection of poems written about, or for my dad, George Prem over the years.
George passed away today, March 30th 2020.

the clock man

the storm-water gutters on the house next door
are ticking contractions
like a timepiece with a stutter

………………………………………………..tick      tick      tick
tick
…………tick      tick      tick      tick

the early night is cold
the old man resident in his workshop
a place that is never silent

the closing door raises a soft clang
as the clocks lining the walls
acknowledge his presence

…………………………………………….on the hour
………………………….on the half hour
……………………………………………………on every fifteenth minute

chimes are sonorously struck
the cuckoo calls clear and raucous
above the serene harmonics
of mantle pieces

…………………………………………….carriage clocks
…………four-hundred-day twirlers
…………………………aged grandfathers

and the whir
of naked mechanisms
exposed for test and confirmation
that no moment has been lost

fifty distinct ticks in this room
individually discernible
if time is taken

…………………………to separate
……….the rhythm of each
…………………………………………….as it passes

order is drawn from an initial aural chaos
a comfort found
in the sedate movement of time
within the workshop of the clock-man

and the staccato punctuation
of metal guttering on a neighbors house

……………………………stuttering
…………in the chill
……………………………………..of early night

c 2001

george’s accommodations

in the loam that is his garden
george is scratching

he has a curled three-prong rake in his hands
to break the soil

he’s worked this same dirt over
for years
summer
green and lush
vibrant climbers
winter
the slow white
of cauliflower

embedded pebbles fleck the black
before he roughs it with his prongs

necessary disturbance
to allow rain
to expose the roots
of any weed
left un-taken by his work

~

george is scratching
in the small square
that is his garden

in the back-yard
beside the hens
and other birds he has housed
throughout his life

in the loam
the dark black earth
he is creating another accommodation
for things to grow

c 2008

of lying still and colour

I used to ride each morning
around the places I’d set my traps
to collect a handful of scrawny bunnies
I’d go out to check them
before anyone else had risen

I slipped a foot off the pedal one day
when I was wearing thongs
tore my toes on bitumen

I turned the bike around
went home
put myself and the damage to bed
I pretended that
if I didn’t move
I wouldn’t feel any pain

I lay very still until she found me there
around lunchtime

~

ma looks grey on the bed
she’s beeping every couple of seconds
has so many tubes sticking out
it looks like they’ve had to hook up her feet
to get a reading of low blood pressure

she’s drifting in and out of consciousness
lying very still
and one eye’s weeping

I wipe it with a handkerchief
but it still looks shiny
puffed up and moist
she doesn’t really know
hasn’t noticed

she speaks a half-coherent line
about pain control not working well before
but it’s fine now

and the surgeon breezed through a while ago
she can’t recall what he told her
but it must be ok
she thinks that’s what he said

~

I found crystals on the street
when I was young
odd shapes that drew my attention
with flat sides as sheer as glass

I’d hold their smoky clarity
pointed at the sky towards the sun
thought I might get a glimpse
of the colours that lay beyond

but the best I ever managed was opaque

~

pa and me are sitting quiet
in disparate corners
when we came back from lunch
she was seriously sleeping

we look at each other
from across the room
know there’s little either of us can do

he’ll wash out her nighties
and I’ll go back to work in another town

he says they should be ok now
the worst was not knowing the result
and now it’s more about endurance and willpower

he says he’ll keep some colour in the garden
that might be important he thinks
when she comes home

c 2016

way poem #5: the five steps to wheaten pecks

he progresses
five steps at a time
to reach a wall
a <a href=”https://fivedotoh.com/2018/10/11/fowc-with-fandango-fence/&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>fence</a>
that he can lean on

air that tastes
so sweet
is hard these days
to come by

a moment of rest
till the gasps calm down
to regular breathing
then
five steps more

and five steps more
again

it’s important to keep moving
even though the atmosphere
is so thin
down here
on planet earth
and the small brown hen
the last remaining hen
is waiting

she has no flock
to be part of
they have passed away
one by one
to a cat
to a fox
to a feather depleting
decrepitude

and now she waits
for the shuffle
of him
beside the yard gate

in her nest
is an egg

he sits beside her laying box
on a chair he placed
some time ago
to one side

in his hand
a covered palm
of golden wheat

she dainty steps
until she can stand
upon him
on his knees
to take each grain
one peck
one peck at a time
until they’re gone

and then she leaves him
and goes to forage the yard
again

and he
can take his five steps
all the way back
to the rest
of his life

c 2016

31 thoughts on “sound in the clockman’s workshop – vale George

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