Thursday, September 9, 2010

Grasping at TIME

Different persons experience time differently -- as illustrated by the few lines included below (part II of  "Time" from my new collection, Red Has No Reason).  This musing is followed by the beautifully precise "Four Quartz Crystal Clocks" by  Marianne Moore (1887-1972).

  From Time     by JoAnne Growney

    Time's not
       as Newton said--
           the same for all--

   for I
      am punctual,
          and you are late.

   You waste
       the savings
           I spend on you.

Four Quartz Crystal Clocks       by Marianne Moore

   There are four vibrators, the world's exactest clocks;
      and these quartz time-pices that tell
   time intervals to other clocks,
      these worksless clocks work well;
   independently the same, kept in
      the 41° Bell
         Laboratory time

   vault.  Checked by a comparator with Arlington,
      they punctualize the "radio,
   cinéma," and "presse,"--a group the
      Giradoux truth-bureau
   of hoped-for accuracy has termed
      "instruments of truth."  We know--
         as Jean Giradoux says,

   certain Arabs have not heard--that Napoleon
      is dead; that a quartz prism when
   the temperature changes, feels
      the change and that the then
   electrified alternate edges
      oppositely charged, threaten
         careful timing; so that

   this water-clear crystal as the Greeks used to say,
      this "clear ice" must be kept at the
   same coolness.  Repetition, with
      the scientist, should be
   synonymous with accuracy.
      The lemur-student can see
         that an aye-aye is not

   an angwan-tíbo, potto, or loris. The sea-
      side burden should not embarrass
   the bell-boy with the buoy-ball
      endeavoring to pass
   hotel patronesses; nor could a
      practiced ear confuse the glass
         eyes for taxidemists

   with eye-glasses from the optometrist.  And as
   one-two gives, each fifteenth second
      in the same voice, the new
   data--"The time will be" so and so--
      you realized that "when you
         hear the signal," you'll be

   hearing Jupiter or jour pater, the day god--
      the salvaged son of Father Time--
   telling the cannibal Chronos
      (eater of his proxime
   newborn progeny) that punctuality
      is not a crime.

The stanzas in "Four Quartz Crystal Clocks" not only have the same shape but the also illustrate the poetic form called "syllabic" verse--with a precise arrangement of syllable counts per line.   For example, the first line of each stanza has 12 syllables; each second line has 8 syllables, and so on.  Moore's poem may be found in her Complete Poems -- on pages 280-81 of this edition also may be found notes to accompany the poem.

Work by Marianne Moore also is featured in the April 9 blog posting concerning baseball.  Precision in measurement of time was previousty considered in the August 19 posting of "Brief Reflection on Accuracy" by Miroslav Holub.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joanne! Your poem reminds me of a similar sentiment expressed by Marvin Bell in his poem "To Dorothy."

    A child said it, and it seemed true:
    "Things that are lost are all equal."
    But it isn't true. If I lost you,
    The air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
    Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
    The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
    I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.