Time and Time Again

Time and Time Again :

Or listen to the clocktowers

of any old well-managed city

beating their gongs round the clock, each slightly

off the others’ time, deeper or lighter

in its bronze, beating out a different

sequence each half-hour, out of the accidents

of alloy, a maker’s shaking hand

in Switzerland, or the mutual distances

commemorating a donor’s whim,

the perennial feuds and seasonal alliance

of Hindu, Christian, and Muslim -

cut off sometimes by a change of wind,

a change of mind, or a siren

between the pieces of a backstreet quarrel.

One day you look up and see one of them

eyeless, silent, a zigzag sky showing

through the knocked-out clockwork, after a riot,

a peace-march time bomb, or a precise act

Of nature in a night of lightnings.

A.K. Ramanujan is one of India’s finest English language poets. He is best known for his pioneering translations of ancient Tamil poetry into modern English. At the time of his death he was professor of linguistics at the University of Chicago and was recognized as the world’s most profound scholar of South Indian languages and culture. His interests included anthropology and folklore. These influenced his work as a craftsman of English. This poem represents the complex distillation of a lifetime of unusual thought and feeling.

Time and Time Again :

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