“Clocks That Strike Only at Sunset”

A Poem by Geoffrey Nutter

May 12, 2021  By Geoffrey Nutter

And if we go down into the cool
spaces under the cliffs where the sea
fills the tide pools at sunset, the grotto
like a great door that opens out onto a garden
where a giant turnip and its fleshly roots
are drinking cool water spilling from the basin
of a fountain and its snarl of ornaments and dolphins;
and if symbols carved in the Rosetta stone
can list the rules of transactions involving vineyards
or abolishing taxes, or the granting of amnesty
by Ibis-headed Thoth—compared to which simple rain
is more thrilling, even when seen
falling on the canal beside the scrapyards—
and if the damselfly, amiable and half-transparent,
goes off into the yellow sky to rear her children;
and if you haven’t seen her; and if
you’re blown out to sea only to be listed
in the Registry of Lost Things, one among
others—the jeweled comb; a bit of vitreous
china and a wedding ring; the half-transparent
child of the damselfly—and if you fell asleep
in the solarium, where near movable screens
made to look like real flowers the gardener
is using wire to tie the blue body
of the damselfly to a blade of grass
to make it look alive; and if you are there
among the hothouse orchids and the ferns
in your red velvet smoking jacket as you snip
some roses with grape scissors, thinking
the cynical thoughts of a man
who has found his place in the world,
a place of relative seclusion in a house
full of clocks in the form of chariots;
of clocks in the form of eggs; of eggs;
of clocks in the shape of houses;
in the shape of crickets, clocks in the form
of cats, of cubes of ice, of cubed cats;
clocks with asps inside, with eggs
that open by unscrewing; with mirrored
clocks and clocks that strike only at sunset
or clocks painted with a prospect of blue
Luna City as seen from green hills: then lay blame
for this and any other thing you might regret
at the feet of the cat, who nonetheless
is innocent—who looks at you with gentle
acceptance, as if to say, “I know who,
and even more, what you are—and I accept all,
forgive all; you can pretend, and I can
pretend along with you; and like the Parable
of the Grass Veils, that parted so the lions
were visible sunning themselves or sleeping
near the trees, I will be one among them,
and you will feel glad to be among the living.”


“Clocks that Strike Only At Sunset” from Giant Moth Perishes. Copyright 2021 by Geoffrey Nutter. Published by Wave Books. Used with the permission of the author and Wave Books.

Geoffrey Nutter
Geoffrey Nutter
Geoffrey Nutter is the author of Giant Moth Perishes (Wave Books, 2021), A Summer Evening (winner of the 2001 Colorado Prize), Water’s Leaves & Other Poems (Winner of the 2004 Verse Press Prize), Christopher Sunset (winner of the 2011 Sheila Motton Book Award), The Rose of January (Wave Books, 2013), and Cities at Dawn (Wave Books, 2016). He recently traveled in China, giving lectures, workshops, and readings as a participant in the Sun Yat-sen University Writers’ Residency. Geoffrey’s poems have been translated into Spanish, French, and Mandarin. Soir d’été, a bilingual edition of his poems translated into French by poets Molly Lou Freeman and Julien Marcland, was recently published in France, and a German translation of his book Water’s Leaves & Other Poems will appear in 2021. He has taught poetry at Princeton, Columbia, University of Iowa, NYU, the New School, and 92nd Street Y. He currently teaches Greek and Latin Classics at Queens College. He runs the Wallson Glass Poetry Seminars in New York City.

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