The Mountain Clock

He was old, almost as old as the stone and slate hills,

so that he seemed part of them now,

from sitting so long on that same porch,

in that same old flannel shirt he'd been wearing for sixteen years.

He'd had more wrinkles than the laundry balled on my floor for as long as I could remember,

and ever since he'd bought that clock had bobbed his head to the ticking,

even in his fits of restless sleep,

bobbing along with sixeen years of seconds.

The clock was almost as old as he was,

almost as brown too,

and just as thickheaded,

especially when the new kids- they didn't know- told him he should get a new one.

When they'd suggest it he would sit up straight,

as straight as his old shoulders could at any rate,

still bent with the memory of the loads he used to pull,

and now barely able to lift more than the occasional checker.

"Sixteen years that clock's been tickin',"

he'd say with sudden steel tempered in his cloudy eyes,

"and so have I. It's never stopped,

and I don't mean to."

Then the fire would die,

slowly to be sure,

and he'd fold up into his wrinkles and go back into his world of memory,

sixteen years ago where the rest of the mountains live.

6/13/04