It Is Three Minutes to Midnight / It Is Still Three Minutes to Midnight / It Is Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight
by John Gallaher
by John Gallaher
I have this distinct feeling of power when I first figured out how
to tell time. California, 1972 or three. And then I’m watching time,
sounding time, announcing time. It’s sundial, sun position, estimating
hours, segmentation. And then I’m in my 40s, teaching Natalie
and then teaching Eliot. Time itself is, as fire is, the heart of the sun
and gravity is, as I’m walking at a pace, heart, respiration. Any December
becomes any January. My favorite idea of time is an illustration
of a loaf of bread in a textbook from college, each slice a thing
that exists forever in its place, each tick of the clock we’re locked out of
by our tick still ticks in its place, as we call it past or future.
And this other part of the illustration, that there’s a heal to the loaf,
this doomsday slice we’ve imagined a clock for, sandwich after
sandwich, dire becoming more dire. How close can you get
to doomsday without it actually being doomsday? Maybe it’s
our conceptions that have run out. Thinner slices, ever thinner.
A mere wisp of a slice. Next phase, we take the clock off the wall
and wear it. We get designer contact lenses of it made so our eyes
can look like they’re spinning, beautiful Doomsday Clock, the best
Doomsday Clock. And doomsday will pay for it, as really,
what this means is we’ve become unrecognizable to ourselves,
what our actions have made us into, a little joke fluttering just
before midnight. That’s really the heart of the matter. And I wish
the matter had some other heart. A real heart. Instead,
we’re promised another shopping plaza. This one will be great.
You’ll be amazed. Folks getting down in the sunshine.
Doomsday Clock Hawaiian shirts. Our lives in the doomsday
sunshine, doomsday sun roofs open, continuing one of those
under the radar journeys when your day’s really, really, not
going well and someone asks you how your day’s going
and you say “great, how’s yours” and they say “great” and it’s
solar eclipses for everybody. It’s that sudden sympathy I have
for where our shoes go when we’re done with them. A thought
you can hold for a few minutes, how shoes conform to your feet
and come to fit them just so, worn into, the sudden way
a rack of shoes at Goodwill can look like a graveyard.
John Gallaher is the author of five books of poetry, Gentlemen in Turbans, Ladies in Cauls (2001), The Little Book of Guesses (2007), winner of the Levis Poetry Prize, Map of the Folded World (2009), Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (with G.C. Waldrep, 2011), and In a Landscape (2014), as well as two chapbooks, and two edited collections, The Monkey and the Wrench (with Mary Biddinger) and Time Is a Toy: the Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt (with Laura Boss). His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Poetry, Boston Review, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. He lives in rural Missouri where he teaches and co-edits The Laurel Review.