The clocks do all the talking. He visits the grave in the middle of a three hour loop
and knows the year of completion of every castle in Ireland, His route
is always the same: the round tower via the aqueduct via the cemetery via the ramparts
via the Battle of Antrim during the Rising of the United Irishmen in 1798,
the slaughter of which is more present if he’s deep in the morning
of his April wedding breakfast or locked into the moment they fitted the oxygen mask
and she rolled her bruised eyes back. She is unable to find the stop for the bus to Belfast
and stays indoors. The nets turn the daylight white and empty.
She has worn the married life of her sister so tightly
over her own, the noise of the clocks makes her feel almost without skin.
Sometimes she sits in her sister’s chair, and feels guilty.
She has Countdown for company and a selective memory –
the argument at the funeral with her niece over jewellry and, years ago,
the conspiracy to keep her single, its success. Time settles over each afternoon
like an enormous wing, when the flurry of lunchtime has left them
and the plates have already been set for tea. He reads extensively –
from Hitler and Stalin, Parallel Lives, to Why Ireland Starved –
but has taken to giving books away recently to anyone who calls.
Winter or summer, evenings end early: they retire to their separate rooms
at least two hours before sleep. It falls like an act of mercy
when the twenty-two clocks chime eight o’clock in almost perfect unison.