I recently acquired an old wrist watch –
It’s from the ‘40s when gold was scarce,
It has a defiant grandeur,
It’s a glimmer of hope from a time
When war still tore even though it was over –
A time when my Grannie
Had just lost her lover –
We don’t know what happened
Because she doesn’t like to remember,
Preferring to keep up with time as it paces,
Letting the past slowly become faded –
It’s like she says:
Not every minute must be savoured.
August – Manhattan’s summer is in full force
As I’m browsing old watches where 47th meets 4th –
I examine about a hundred
Before returning to buy the first –
It’s funny how all these choices
Just help us realise what our instincts are worth –
My most expensive ever purchase
On impulse from a man named Boris,
Who I liked – he was dishevelled
But his eyes were piercingly honest.
The internet says I paid about 150 dollars over,
But matters of the heart are hard to measure –
For example, what would you pay for a wife?
If you love her, surely anything is a fair price –
And this marvel of mechanics has been counting seconds for six decades,
Perpetually present – it watches as things change.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼There is a confidence that only comes with age –
We should thank God that youth is just a phase.
For old times’ sake this old watch was bought with old money –
Earned by my Grandpa preaching good news to the poor –
Written into a cheque by his faithful wife
Who spent herself bringing forth life –
By his side since 1951
When this old watch was still young.
Human history is a battle to maintain momentum
And this watch still fights the forces of friction
With soft rhythmic breath –
Keeping a handle on time –
Although less strictly these days.
Meanwhile, Grannie stands 90 years strong –
Proudly awaiting the arrival of her fourth generation,
Heavy in my sister’s womb –
Grandpa is resting
In the tomb.
I wear the pair of them deep in my chest –
In my pulsing blood, in my rising breath –
And the snippets of their stories
That I clench in my fist,
Are more precious than any gold
I could strap to my wrist.
Richard Watkins is a London based artist and poet. He is the man behind the books Pen Paper Pause (2009) and Most Things Move (2013). His interest in creative collaboration led to United Verses 译站 (2009), a Shanghai based cross-language poetry collaboration; Take It & Run, a 40-artist collaboration project; and most recently The Airmail Project, where artists from 16 countries are collaborating by post.