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Friday, 26 June 2009



File:Bristol Bus Station clocks.jpg

Echoes rebound in the ancient ball court
Against the wind singing in the trees
There is a silent helmetted adversary
Flames glimmer from his deep eye slots

Moths swirl upon glass as if to speak
One sits solitary by the lamp hour by hour
The gleam that keeps the night awake falters
Time as it passes fills up with something else


Invisible gaps open to the past
The clock does not strike as expected
The cavalcade has dispersed without lament
Words have been forsaken by their letters

But day and night still struggle on
And though day noisily contend
At the end shadow stands alone
Masked in the dark clearing waiting

File:Liesing Quando est hora ultima 23052007 01.jpg

File:Nature Clock.gif

Bristol bus station clocks
: photo by Rob Brewer, 2005
Old style Diamond alarm clock: photo by Jorge Barrios, 2006
Sundial on steeple of parish church, Liesing, Carinthia, Austria: photo by Johann Jaritz, 2007
Nature clock: image and animation by Nevit Dilmen, 2001


Delia Psyche said...

These end-stopped lines, spectral in their lack of punctuation, seem at once discrete and collusive, like members of a cabal who pretend not to know one another. The meaning-making mind sees resemblances among the disparate lines--and, because one perception moves instantly to another, amalgamates images. I imagine a cavalcade of letters coldly clipclopping away from a word, leaving it ineffable, desolate as the solitary by the lamp. And the struggle between day and night I imagine a squash game that night--the player wearing the flame-eyed mask--will inexorably win. He's an implacable foe, like a preternaturally powerful black knight. But true knights, like true night, have disappeared.

darkfoam said...

and where there's shadow there is always light...
anyway ..
as i was reading this i thought of
the elusiveness of fragmented memories and time ..
it's a lovely read ..

oh, and thanks for visiting my blog .. :)

Zephirine said...

A beautiful and chilling poem.

Time as it passes fills up with something else

The clock does not strike as expected

Words have been forsaken by their letters


TC/BTP said...

David, Foam, Zeph,

Many thanks.

The poem is the descendant of a larger piece which staged a ritual combat in the Great Ballcourt of the Stadium of the Warriors in the Mayan City of Chichen Itza. To that combat it now alludes only in sidelong fashion.

Some images of the original imagined setting may be of interest. This was the Old Trafford or Yankee Stadium of another Empire.

What is that large ring that protrudes from high up on the wall of the ballcourt interior but a scoreboard?

Interior of Great Ballcourt

Structure at N. end of Great Ballcourt

Temple of the Warriors

TC said...


Your squash-game projection, as you'll see from the above major hint, came very close to the nerve of this.

It also seems that masked "implacable foes" and "black knights" may well have been part of these games. Though "game" is a funny word for a sort of agon that, it seems, was actually a matter of life or death... or possibly even death and death.

In the Mayan gods these "players" had a pretty tough audience.

"These end-stopped lines, spectral in their lack of punctuation, seem at once discrete and collusive, like members of a cabal who pretend not to know one another."

This is spot-on.

The lines, like the warriors, are perhaps part of something esoteric, indeed a kind of ghostly cabal; yet they stand off from each other; as you say, they seem to pass each other without noticing, like strangers in the night.

No wonder then that the words are falling apart and the letters are on the run...

And "the elusiveness of fragmented memories and time ..", as Foam puts it, was the real subject.

And the shiver Zeph mentions--that's the feeling this image-set gives me, too.

Thanks for making me think about this a bit, people.

TC/BTP said...

By the by, is there a problem-solver out there who can tell me what time it is at that bus station in Bristol?

Mariana Soffer said...

Lovely post!
I love the subject of the post, time, time is such a big deal, or is none at all. Time can be a straight line or a circle. Time can be made, invented destroyed.
PD: I guess you know the name of the post means opponent in Spanish.

TC/BTP said...

Mariana--Thanks again for your keen eye. Yes, as you say, it's such an all-or-nothing thing. El Adversario? Tiempo, por supuesto!

I am not the first poet to hold this view.

Time is the Evil, writes Pound in his Cantos, in the voice of the bereft lover Pedro.

He refers to the Portugese poet Camoëns' story of Inez da Castro, the dead young secret bride of the regent Pedro, son and heir of King Alphonso V of Portugal--whom the grieving lover attempted to keep "alive" through various theatrical means.

"He had her body exhumed, and the court did homage, the grandees of Portugal passing before the double throne of the dead queen and her king, and kissing the hand that been hers..."


Obviously Time proved more than Pedro's match as an Adversario and after a few weeks poor Inez had to go the way of the worms

Oh well, it's not the fourteenth century any more, still it's sometimes difficult to avoid falling prey to a generic old coot's view of Time as... what? La Mala-Estrella...?

I suppose that's what this poem does; anyway the image dialogue was meant to bring out that; so thanks for noticing.

Lavender said...

Greetings Tom! Many Thanks for introducing yourself. I greatly enjoyed your insightful and entertaining comments, as well as sympathized with the grouse/wattlebird confusion - been there, done that myself, so no worries Mate.
Looking forward to following your blog and reading more, Cheers!

Uncle Tree said...

The antiquated ball park scenes remind me of just how far we have come. We tend to think we are so much more civilized these days.

We still make sacrifices, and Time is forever against us. The heroes of today, our modern gladiators, they no longer risk their necks in the game. Only their million dollar reputations are at stake.

History lessons change, as we are wont to fill in the gaps, instead of shooting them. I like the way you spent your time on this one, Tom.

The nature clock moving picture framed, well...I will not soon forget it. Thanks for taking me back.

TC/BTP said...


Thanks for coming over. And for understanding. (You see it was the grand wattle display of the secretive sooty grouse that did in my frayed neurological knitting.)

Hope your head cold's but a memory by now.

(Fans of birds, cats and flowers are directed to Lavender's brilliantly visual blog.)


Yes, the play-for-keeps aspect of Mayan combat must have made things rather intense there in the ballcourt. As to the details of the games, no one quite knows what went on.

Having been inducted as a child to the vivid night-sport of Mexican jai-alai, in Ensenada, I have sometimes imagined the Mayan ball game as a kind of lethal jai-alai. One understands it was ritualized, but also one understands the sincerity. The operatic theatricalism of a contemporary kingpin gladiator, say Cristiano Ronaldo, would likely have been unknown at Chichen Itza.

Also there is the question of whether they literally "played by the clock"--say, the shadows created as the sun descended--or simply played to the death.

The combatants were of course sacrificial victims and thus heroes in a very different sense than today's sporting heroes.

"History lessons change, as we are wont to fill in the gaps, instead of shooting them..." Truer words, etc.

human being said...

'Words have been forsaken by their letters'

so this is what happens when the enemy is at the gate...

very powerful and impressive...

time passes like this for me:

it was 12 o'clock
the apple was on the tree

i was 12 o'clock and a second
the apple was not on the tree

i ate the apple

TC said...

dear human,

I think I too understand this stopped time now as a kind of falling, though I don't seem able to let it happen as gracefully as you seem to--merely another respect in which I must bow to you as my teacher.

Is it simply time passing in my mind?

Your comment moves me to work on posting a response worthy of it... before too long, if heaven and the night and the weak old frame prove willing.