My Father's Watch

by John Ciardi

John Ciardi

One nightI dreamed I was locked in my Father's watch
With Ptolemy and twenty-one ruby stars
Mounted on spheres and the Primum Mobile
Coiled and gleaming to the end of space
And the notched spheres eating each other's rinds
To the last tooth of time, and the case closed.

What dawns and sunsets clattered from the conveyer
Over my head and his while the ruby stars
Whirled rosettes about their golden poles.
"Man, what a show!" I cried. "Infinite order!"
Ptolemy sang "The miracle of things
Wound endlessly to the first energy
From which all matter quickened and took place!"

"What makes it shine so bright?" I leaned across
Fast between two teeth and touched the mainspring
At once all hell broke loose. Over our heads
Squadrons of band saws ripped at one another
And broken teeth spewed meteors of flak
From the red stars.

You couldn't dream that din:
I broke and ran past something into somewhere
Beyond a glimpse of Ptolemy split open,
And woke on a numbered dial where two black swords
Spun under a crystal dome. There, looking up
In one flash as the two swords closed and came,
saw my Father's face frown through the glass.

Collected Poems of John Ciardi

Last updated March 01, 2023