The Tick of a Second Hand (poem)

Posted by ractrose on 14 Apr 2017 in Art, Poems

  My Titanic poem. Harry Widener, one of the victims, had purchased while abroad a 1598 edition of Francis Bacon’s essays. It was in his possession when he went down with the ship.


Charcoal drawing of Titanic survivors in lifeboat




The Tick of a Second Hand


The landing gear came down

And a long becalming slick

Smothered the water in a broadening swath

that rose at the interstice of sun and sea

Vaporing in blue

Fell from the rigored bird beast

that in its throes shuddered and upraised its nose

and sought to climb

At length it showered many things

Among them screens and screens

That for a time flashed blue then died


“I have never known the rules,” said the half-buried


The china cup handle and the brittle stars,

the spider crab and the worms

The tin box that had been the knight’s home, and the

rusticles that had grown

Pinioning him when at the first upheaval

the maelstrom had spirited him to the

immortal shadow realm

And the shadow was a lie

If Bacon told the truth

They relied on the teachings of the spider crab

who had devoured the essays

Then laid them in a thousand eggs

The knight, the pawn, and the bishop had fallen

Each to his resting place

The bishop white, the knight black, and the pawn

still trapped in the tin box could tell nothing of himself

“Superstition hath been the confusion of many states”

The spider crab touched

Her eyestalk close to the half-buried knight’s face

And for malice’s sake, swung the rostrum towards

the little worms

Who recessed themselves in terror at the

memory of her words


How like a gift drifting

Rarest species of lumbering jellyfish

The chessmen first untethered from the board

and then this glimpse

into the mysteries of the Hand

The brittle stars slice with their ponderous grace

One, two, three they gather with hard labor

in the gelid plasmatic depth


“Of truth, of death, of unity”

Some shrouded thing surrounded by a halo descends

It lands

And the china cup handle, the half-buried knight feel

After a sleep of a hundred years which is to them

the tick of a second hand

Miraculous movement




The Tick of a Second Hand

Pastel drawing of Planet Earth, Mars, and the Moon playing cards in the style of the Poker Dogs

Gravity Hold the Moon















(2015, Stephanie Foster)