for Judit Scherter
In my childhood at a relative’s,
in the widowed, flannel-shirted forester’s
poky flat, among his bulky furniture,
was a broken grandfather clock.
It was full of compartments,
making it seem mysterious,
purposeless, like the empty dovecote
in my classmate’s yard.
It’s timeless, said the grown-ups solemnly,
and as it hadn’t worked for years, there was a dignity,
I thought, in the motionless hands. My parents
had wristwatches but never any time.
I longed for my own distant time, on the other side,
where one day I would have my own
timeless clock whose hands
were not to be touched.
There was always time to kill there.
I was bored. Browsing a hunting album on the floor,
the wide eyes of the rabbits and deer.
Time’s not an easy kill.
Years go by before you learn how
to track time and get behind it.
Time lies heavy, dragging through the shady,
vast woodland of my life: its legs tied,
laid waste, I trail dead time
behind me, like a sledge.
They ask: what’s that cord in the picture?
What’s on the end of the rope, hanging
out of view? Nothing, I answer,
and they might ask who’s that pulling.
That’s me, I’d reply,
That’s me all old.
Don’t run out of time – I was forever told,
you’ll never have a language certificate, a house, a child,
you’ll miss the last bus, the greatest love,
you’ll never be a ballet dancer, you’ll never be a young mum,
or an old mum, for that matter, you can’t run
through your life among all these people barefoot,
look at your feet, you’ve got those
girl’s sandals on again, your buckles undone,
run after the others, quick!
I ran like the rabbits, like the deer,
eyes wide open, throbbing
ribs, sick to the stomach, in dreamed-of
Sunday shoes, always behind,
stumbling to the corner of the picture,
then looked up, it had got dark,
and I’d made it out of time.
Translated by Owen Good