And this my hand, against my self uprear.
— William Shakespeare
I took the crooked, arcade-overshadowed road
off the main square built by de Chirico
and chanced upon a watch repairer’s shop
which might have been painted by Bhupen Khakhar
for whose summer show the London weeklies
have just prepared such a frosty welcome.
Wait. Is this ekphrastic or oneiric?
The site Bologna or Bombay?
Are the hanging watches, so sure of their gender,
Bulgari or Janata? Too early to tell.
But there he sat at his workbench working at
what looked like tiny jeweled bits of time laid out
under his eye loupe in magnolia light.
These fragments he seemed to be reassembling
into a perfect circle, or a sphere seen from above —
it was like a miracle obligingly performed
in slow motion, or the flight of an arrow broken down
into ever smaller fractions of advancement.
He took his time, and my time, to acknowledge me —
clearly he didn’t crave an audience,
as though the slow work that so ravished him
required if not secrecy at least discretion.
Could he mend, I wondered, the cracked glass
on my watch before I had to leave tomorrow?
His black eyes rested on the old Omega
as though bemused such a watch should belong
to someone so importunate, then he cleared the air
with a lenient, experienced smile.
Certo. But it will have a different bombatura
not quite as fine as this one was.
Though the word was unfamiliar, it conjured up at once
light skating the rim of a sheer bevel.
Va bene. So long, I thought, as I can tell
the time, and don’t have to squint through cracks
as I had since fending off a drunken punch
which I’d provoked myself enough to throw.
I would have paid extra to watch him clean the face
with the wad of turquoise putty he had to hand,
paid double to have Devanagari numerals
replace the Roman, but he wanted me out.
A domani allora. Then as I left
he said it needed una revisione completa
before it got too late. A watch like this deserves
— he changed the tense — deserved a lot more care.