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Calling the Time

In the operating room, the surgeon
         hung clocks from all over the world
                  to the proper time, the tick in other
         places to remind her of the worlds
beyond the body, past the expiration

dates. She imagined hand-painted
         cuckoos beside maneki neko clocks,
                  the din of metal in fingers clicking
         with the promise of good fortune.
She remembered grandfather’s fob,

timepieces handcrafted from bone,
         plastic mushroom clocks from swap
                  meets, Elvis clocks and football clocks,
         a clock of the moon landing beside
a cow-jumping-over-the-moon clock.

Her mother once told her God’s second
         hand is the moon, the rhythm of blood
                  beyond our control. When the heart stops
         even light is a clock to the last witness,
the space in between breathing places.

On the door to where the family waits,
         she’d set the wristwatch of her patient
                  on the doorknob to keep them honest
         in departure, the alarm of precision,
the telltale of the need to remember.


To the Guy Who Drew a Penis on the Elevator

Thanks for giving us something to look
         at when my kids visit, for the devotion
it took to bring a chair to etch it

near the ceiling, or else your ability
         to dunk without jumping, a giant among
us, armed with pen. The smiley face

on the head was a nice touch. Kudos
         to sharing your big ideas with joy.
Could you also be the one who rips

the signage to the courtyard down
         each day with Herculean effort,
or pops out the steel ceiling panels?

Sorry to assume that you’re a man,
         but the shadows in my brain depict
a silhouette with heart-shaped balls.

Are you teaching us no container is
         permanent, from womb to coffin,
that the journey homeward is a messy

business? When the floor is damp,
         I wonder if your eyes leak the myth
of creation even as you inspire us

to hold our children close in this
         shivering box that squeaks for us
to pay attention to the passage.


There’s a sky that is not a sky,
         a roof, perhaps, tumbling down,
the firmament torn, prayers as policy.

There’s a famous cricketer who insured
         his bushy mustache against incendiary fans,
depilatory kisses, and Edward Scissorhands.

There are distant towns that offer protection
         against mangos raining through windshields,
ghost infestations and immaculate conception.

There are meteoric premiums for body parts:
         actors’ asses, quarterbacks’ canons, a yo-yo
master’s mitts, a tart food critic’s taste buds.

There is someone, somewhere, looking to hedge
         against unhappiness after winning the lottery,
zombie-dinosaurs, sentient lightning, the flood.

There’s a place on the border, in the demilitarized
         zone, entire villages between troops tired of holding
weapons, counting on destruction to hold like a wall.
There’s no way to save love in a bottle. The landscape
         shimmers with each breath, each promise, each word,
the name for sky that will hold the weight, our faith.  


Martin Ott is the author of six books of poetry and fiction, including the forthcoming poetry book Underdays, Sandeen Prize winner, University of Notre Dame Press, and a short story collection Interrogations, Fomite Press.