The Bomb-Maker’s Watch

by Lorna Shaughnessy

Clocking in and out. That’s the bit that gets me.
That, and watching the clock, that huge clock
over the factory floor, waiting all day for the hands
to come around to five. It’s not like the hours
have got any longer, it just feels that way,
they pass slower now than when I was doing time.

They used to give you a watch when you retired and your time
didn’t belong to anyone else. There’ll be none of that for me,
just the usual factory horn to send me on my way.
They pay me to stand on the shop floor under that clock,
checking everyone complies with health and safety. Hour
after hour. In those machines you could lose a hand.

It keeps coming back, you know, the sweating hands,
the nausea, the clenching in the gut. Like that last time,
watching the hands and counting down the hours,
minutes that’s never going to change for me
even though I know the final moments on the clock
won’t trigger anything, there’ll be no bang. I can’t find a way

to stop the tremor in my hands, it wouldn’t go away.
The final moments and now we’re down to the second hand,
seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, it’s five o’clock.
It was never a case of running out of time.
I’m a supervisor now, that’s what they call me.
They pay me just to stand here and watch the hours

not running out, and people clocking up hours
in their paycheques, whole days wishing away
time, waiting for the hand to reach five. That could be me
too, if it wasn’t for what I know about the hands
and what they count, the mysteries of time
they can never read in the face of that big clock.

Supervisor? I was a priest of time, a master clock
watcher, a surgeon who spliced the hours
into split seconds and dissected time
so precisely I left nothing to chance. Anyway,
that was the plan. Till that last time. My hands
started shaking. Master timetaker, that was me.

Clocking in and out. That’s the bit that gets me.
Times you’d wish for an accident, just to get away.
Hours of making sure noone loses a hand.