augury doggerel

Tuesday, August 10, 2004


In a corner of this massive church, there's an old clock as tall as a house. At the top, Adam and Eve in matching leaves (one of those couples) stand on either side of a bare tree, up which they have driven a serpent. At exactly five o'clock by my Japanese watch, Adam and Eve, with rope and hammer, take turns ringing bells for the hour.

There are twenty-four hours on the face of the clock, twelve astrological signs carved and painted on a lower wheel, and on the lowest wheel a calendar turning once a year. A carved man points to today's date. The painted clock housing might be a doll house but for Death gliding out one little door and in another.

A young tour guide tells her group in French about a restored mechanism. I know no French, so it is still possible that prayer is the restored mechanism, or that a saint has trapped a demon in the clock and commanded it to turn cogs until Judgment Day, or that a hidden nun is pedaling with her habit hiked up.

Somewhere behind me, St. Dorothy in relief is tortured with fire and tongs, and someone in the back farts with enough vigor to be heard but not smelt at this range. Then a bearded man, a satellite of the French group, comes up behind the guide as she explains the clock and pinches her. The guide stops and turns red, and the French tourists laugh. She smiles and starts again about this mechanism no one gets to see.


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