Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Clock by Aldo Palazzeschi

[A lot of tense clock-watching is going on & in response this is "L'Orologio," translated by Nick Benson as "The Clock," a poem by Aldo Palazzeschi from his book of 1910 L'Incendiario (The Arsonist).]

The Clock

The clock is the recorder of the time
that is no longer.
It marks the hours wretched man
donates to death.
- Valentino Kore

On a wall of my bedroom
there hangs
an old clock;
one of the old type,
with the counterweight and chain.
I used to wind it a lot,
just to have something to do,
not really sure
whether it bothered me more stationary
or in its damned perpetual motion.
For the longest time
the clock hasn’t worked anymore.
I’d always looked at it with scorn,
hoping for its demise,
wishing for that malicious chatterbox
a very sad end.

All you men
wear a clock on your person, and you don’t know
everything it knows about you,
everything it indicates,
and it will never tell you.
I watched it, thinking:
clock, you know
everything about me, tell me the hour of my death.
Two? Five? Three?
One minute after three, two minutes after?
God! I felt myself dying
every minute!
I unleashed all my fury
onto that clock,
everything I could get my hands on
I threw at it.
Insults, spit, trash,
shoes, inkwells!
And it stopped.
It stopped at six o’clock.

At the moment I figured
I was free of it,
it tick-tocked no longer,
it had stopped.
But the next day
when that hour came,
I looked at it,
and from that ferocious stillness
I understood
that was forever to be the time,
Was I to die at that time
on every single day?
At the sunset hour,
the hour of the Ave Maria,
just before night,
the last hour of the day,
six o’clock, terrible hour
of all my nightmares!
That evening hour
had quite justly become
the hour of my interment.

In my desperation
I ran at the clock,
I ripped out its guts!
I threw everything around, the hands,
its infernal
knifing mechanism,
everything all around!
And now you can’t see anything
but a gutted monster,
and a piece of chain
left dangling,
with a little wheel attached.
Bits of those putrid guts
I tore out.

You men know neither how to be born
nor how to die,
yet hold close, dear to your hearts,
this device that knows your hour
though it will not tell you, as all the while it beats
steadily into your breast, while you remain unaware.
I bless the one who knows the hour of his death,
and I kneel at the suicide’s feet.
I think: what am I waiting for?
Am I waiting for each beautiful hair,
for each of my beautiful teeth
to fall out, one by one?
Am I waiting for a yellow sore
to appear somewhere
and sully my white skin,
to invade and overcome it?
Oh! How beautiful it is to die
with a red flower at one’s temple!
The reddest rose
to ever unfurl, to unfurl
beside the pale visage!
O from the highest tower
to cast oneself into the void,
into voluptuous space!
So that nothing remains on the earth
but a red stain.
And you who already know that hour,
written as it is on your forehead,
you keep up your steady pace,
calmly mark that hour
and continue on.
But I won’t be among those who say:
that was it, that was what made me tremble
every day, what passed unnoticed,
what I had not expected.

No! I will make myself a tower on a mountain,
the highest in the world,
with all its bricks
piled on all your minutes,
and up there I’ll go at my appointed time,
the one chosen by me.
I stop to listen well to the ticking
of all the clocks of the world,
useless and vile hearts,
and to you I cry: take a look, clock, I’m going to jump!
And I do.
Ah! I heard a click!
It was you, you who’d already chosen the time,
and thought that was it!
No, it wasn’t,
and I know when it’ll be!
I’m in charge now,
I’m the one who will tell you the hour, Clock!
And in my throat I find,
risen from my belly,
the most outrageous, obscene laughter,
the filthiest jokes,
the rudest howls of scorn,
just to make you wait
another five minutes.

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