By Stephen Kingsnorth

The Clock

A classical pastiche:
corner cherubs, putti poorly cast which now corrode,
Tempus Fugit plate, commanding serif comment overall,
arranged on brittle face, metallic square, crude cut.

Encased in wood pretending plastic,
even hardboard, glue, mis-stained,
this poor-imagined age and quality
are what money buys for the undiscerning,
those who own price-labelled friends,
dress their houses with cash and carry culture,
shop next door because the same item costs more,
and the named-store bag can be on parade,
wanting Christmas delivered in a van.

The patina of experience, worked relationships,
smithy-hammered wisdom, weathered learning,
aged pain and pleasure are not on sale;
overnight the cotton-hung copper sulphate crystal does not grow,
the dust-bottled vintage cannot speed long lay-down,
the gardener pretend winter for the soil-hidden seed -
distress cannot be bought.

The Score

My introit in the cradle rocked,
though not that style of lullaby,
but rhythm beat of breath and heart,
a gentle pulse to reassure,
known voice of mother, grandma’s tones.
The ring of roses came around,
atishoo, falling to the ground,
the harmony, family songs,
roar laughter round the gramophone,
first wind-up, though the horn unknown.
But soon sea shanties took the strain
and Boney, warrior, not M, 
taught tunes of classroom, hymn practice,
heal reel to reel toe, country dance.
Then heard, down drainpipes up to flares,
those adolescent songs, the pop
of love, romance, hormonal fears,
own player, vinyl in a spin,
transistor under sheets in bed.
Cassettes, magnetic loops run hoops.
and pencil points to twist or clear
those bars trapped, circled, round the head,
repeat performance, stuck again.
Technology runs faster now,
and notes are sent, I know not how;
but what distilled, when all else blown,
what music of the spheres remains,
what alchemy drips from the eaves?
For my confession, hymnody,
aged classic sounds of symphonies,
but if chose one accompanist,
it’s love, despite, hear Stand By Me,
from cradle, grave, gospel in all.


Why should such decoration, 
millennias’ success, 
define so many corbels, 
columns, the common weal? 
How did this palmette reeding, 
bear’s breeches in suspense, 
overcame the climbing vine, 
acanthus rose-glow grow? 

As if new mounted spear, mint, 
sharp-rising piercing point, 
you name a stake less likely, 
a flower to pin on board;
this mould of pointing fingers, 
by dado images, 
pattern spread through countless rooms, 
frieze, frozen craftsmen’s style. 

As child this palmette reading,  
hand creased my ways to tell 
a palm line for my leading 
the future brought to view? 
It rose to haunt my ceiling,  
direction from above, 
from which to hang my lighting, 
a beam for me to love.

Claimed girl-grave votive basket, 
a sealing waxing through, 
dominated roof-top lives, 
unknown to little lass.
And yet through countless cultures 
the counted years mark too, 
empires’ popularity, 
and still displayed on show.


Their credo, curb this gutter life,
a VIP is coming by, Daimler drifting,
wafted waving, sighing - 
why gracious calmly flutter, slide,
to please these hordes,
flags responding to that side?

Strange new fit my corrugations,
secreted stash of old-life snaps,
long ago, perhaps a week,
when she died, and shifted out,
tenancy her name, just the son.

Ironic, as a monarchist;
would she have moved me
at the council’s bid - 
standing on my recent home,
paved bunting wings to flitter out?

She would doubtless disapprove,
layabout should get a job,
no dignity, streets mucking up.
Care for her, employ my due,
love-undertaking till another
took the rôle, me left bereft.

They cleared the flat and home
became new slab, street corner stone,
with blanket coverage of press,
independent, sun and star,
guardian of my troubled rest.

The bedroom swept, their car passed on, 
my plot resumed, though box was
skipped, along with mother’s photograph.
She missed that visit, as did I;
her box undisturbed, mine recycled,
both her life and mine.


The long thin candle gutters,
this down-pipe in mizzle, blocked,
overflowing gentle tears,
beads close-clinging to the wax. 

In chapel prayer, at bats wing,  
no deprived, unquiet sleep, 
all devote to greater care,
our home loved ones; we night-light.

Impotent shared symbol dare,
from few days on course, away,
not golf, wear-worn cliché joke,
but preparing for the cloth. 
Terce following the dial,
though Prime time, the zealous keen,
at third hour story finds us,
crossroad, his fatality.

Stephen Kingsnorth (Cambridge M.A., English & Religious Studies), retired to Wales from ministry in the Methodist Church with Parkinson’s Disease, has had pieces published by on-line poetry sites, printed journals and anthologies, most recently Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Parliament Literary Magazine, Poetry Potion, Grand Little Things, The Poet Magazine.         

7 thoughts on “The Clock and Other Poems

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