Monday, May 15, 2006

Poem of the Week 5/15/2006: Watch Repair

Watch Repair

A small wheel
Shivering like
A pinned butterfly.

Hands thrown up
In all directions:
The crossroads
One arrives at
In a nightmare.

Higher than that
Number 12 presides
Like a beekeeper
Over the swarming honeycomb
Of the open watch.

Other wheels
That could fit
Inside a raindrop.

That must be splinters
Of arctic starlight.

Tiny golden mills
Grinding invisible
Coffee beans.

When the coffee's boiling
So it doesn't burn us,
We raise it
To the lips
Of the nearest

Charles Simic 1974

Charles Simic has simply titled this poem "Watch Repair," but he could also have called it "A Collection of Spectacular Images Arranged Around A Watch Repair." Please please please read this poem four or five times; it's not so long, and to "get it," you have to pay attention to the series of images. Read the poem until they flicker into being. It's so easy to read poetry without doing this - the rhythm or story or individual words carry one past the images strung-together, perhaps because we are not used to thinking in lists, or thinking so abstractly. But the way to read poetry is to give in to the images, not rationalize them or know them, but to knit them together, to see, taste, touch, and listen to them.

"Watch Repair" asks us to do all of those things. Its incisive, expressive, energetic images express the story of the watch repair (though it doesn't seem like it, even after several readings; this is one of the poem’s strengths). More than that, though, they present an intense way of interacting with the world. Intense, yes, but whimsical, lovely, and light-hearted; there is nothing saying those cannot exist together. Simic, by examining this watch repair so incisively, models a level of engagement with the world that is

The first thing I want to notice in this poem is the images’ aptness; that is, how incisively they express the image of an opened watch. Next, I want to talk about its expressiveness: how the images tell the story. Then I will rave about the rich way of looking at the world.

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