Issue > Poetry
Alan Feldman

Alan Feldman

Alan Feldman has been publishing poems for fifty years. His recent work will be found in Cincinnati Review, Cimarron Review, Hanging Loose, The Literary Review, Salamander, Southern Review, Southwest Review, South Carolina Review, upstreet, Worcester Review, Yale Review and Best American Poetry 2011. He offers free, drop-in poetry workshops at the Framingham, Massachusetts public library and, in summer, at the Wellfleet library.

Watch Battery

Who knows if my father ever thought
what Montaigne's father did: That every city
should have a place where people in need
could go to meet. How somewhere
a man is starving, and another with a surplus
would grieve if he only knew, and offer the man
a modest but reasonable living. That giving man
could have been my father. Not grieving, perhaps,
but regretful he couldn't be of more help—
a man you could trust to fix things.

Like the man who helped the watchmaker
fix my watch. How, when he couldn't decide
how to loosen the clasp that holds in the battery,
itself no bigger than a small coin,
without breaking it, he turned to someone
more experienced—a Dutchman, actually,
who seemed happy to demonstrate this very skill,
and upload it to YouTube. Demonstrate it
with a camera in his lap, so we could see his two hands
familiarly, competently, and rapidly
opening the watch to replace the battery,
the way a father would automatically retie his son's shoe.

And there was also his calm voice with its accent,
like the woodcarver's in Pinocchio,
telling the confused and despairing who were ready
to lose patience and snap the band holding the battery
and ruin the watch—the watch that could keep running—
how to prolong its life by exercising patience—
the very quality my dad had in abundance—

that quality I always loved him for, of solving the problem
without getting exasperated. Though it's unfair
he never had parents like that himself.
Or that—when the amount of pain rose to be greater
than any pleasure he'd be able to feel—
the little watch-sized defibrillator in his heart
wouldn't simply stop, and let him go.


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