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Lives of the Watchmakers

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Surely there are teeth so small.   
I have listened for their turning,   
this frail swell and fall   

like old blood yearning   
upwards through the skin of days.   
Slowly, I am learning   

their count, though numbers fray   
in me, and the loaded instants   
graft, coming always   

to the same tangle: the distant   
cry merging with the song   
at hand, the rain’s insistent   

opening in daylong   
dryness, the plain moon   
draining into dawn.   

And below it all, hewn   
from the pliant light of some   
Geneva noon,   

they spin time’s thrum.   
Stopped, I have bent my ears   
to them. I have become   

sound inside their years.   
Surely I have known the whole   
of grief and grace in gears.   


Source: Poetry (December 2008)

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This poem originally appeared in the December 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

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Lives of the Watchmakers

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  • Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Rutherglen is the recipient of a 2012–2013 Amy Clampitt fellowship and a 2008 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His work has been published in Prairie Schooner, the Antioch Review, Mid-American Review, and 9th Letter, and the Southern Review. He is one of the founding editors of The Winter Anthology,  a nascent collection of 21st century international literature.

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