Wind-Up Clock Poem Ticks All The Boxes For Contest Judge

May 10, 2017

When we launched our Mother's Day Poetry Contest, poet and judge Susan Porterfield suggested she might someday write a poem about her mother's ballet shoes.

Barbara Gray, author of the poem "My Mother's Clock."

"My mother was a ballerina when she was younger," Porterfield said. "Once she got older and had four kids, she no longer was a ballerina -- although she would use the kitchen counter as a bar and do ballet exercises."

Porterfield said a simple object can convey a lot of information and emotion to a reader. This might explain why Porterfield was attracted to "My Mother's Clock," one of 85 poems we received:

What I like about this poem is how it takes an object that the poet associates with the mother and then, through that object, tells us everything about their relationship.

The object is, obviously, a clock that the mother would faithfully wind every day. Now, as the poet makes clear, the writer possesses the clock, letting us know that the mother is, no doubt, deceased.

“Never before” the poem begins—so we know that this situation is new, unusual. The writer is now the keeper of the clock—generations pass responsibilities and traits and quirks and notions and dominance onto each other. Our parents’ generational force fades, and ours -- for a moment -- takes its place.

But what remains is the “steady sound,” of that generation, just as the clock’s ticking is a steady sound, around us forever, reminding the poet of the mother and reminding all of us of the passage and even the tyranny of time.

This poem is one of five which Porterfield selected to be read on WNIJ during Morning Edition this week. The author is Barbara Gray of Oro Valley, Arizona, who requested that Porterfield read the poem for her. We include the text below this video:

MY MOTHER'S CLOCK

 

Never before

Have I lived

In the same room

As my mother's clock.

 

It's easy to remember

Her faithfulness....

Lovingly winding it

  As I now do the same.         

 

But more remarkable than that

Is the steady sound it makes

Throughout my every day.

 

And I sense the beat of her heart

Surrounding me still--

Faithful and never ending

As only a mother's love can be.

                                                                                   

The wind-up clock Barbara Gray inherited from her mother.
Credit Barbara Gray

Listen for our fourth winning poem Thursday during Morning Edition at 6:45 and 8:45. Then come back here for a video of the reading, plus Porterfield's remarks.

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