297: The Clock

297: The Clock

297: The Clock

The Clock
by Victoria Chang

The Clock—died on June 24, 2009
and it was untimely. How many
times my father has failed the clock
test. Once I heard a scientist with
Alzheimer’s on the radio, trying to
figure out why he could no longer
draw a clock. It had to do with
the superposition of three types.
The hours represented by 1-12,
the minutes where a 1 no longer
represents 1 but 5, and a 2 now
represents 10, then the second hand
that measures 1 to 60. I sat at the
stoplight and thought of the clock, its
perfect circle and its superpositions,
all the layers of complication on a
plane of thought, yet the healthy
read the clock in one single instant
without a second thought. I think
about my father and his lack of first
thoughts, how every thought is a
second or third or fourth thought,
unable to locate the first most
important thought. I wonder about
the man on the radio and how far his
brain has degenerated since. Marvel
at how far our brains allow language
to wander without looking back but
knowing where the pier is. If you
unfold an origami swan, and flatten
the paper, is the paper sad because
it has seen the shape of the swan or
does it aspire towards flatness, a life
without creases? My father is the
paper. He remembers the swan but
can't name it. He no longer knows
the paper swan represents an animal
swan. His brain is the water the
animal swan once swam in, holds
everything, but when thawed, all the
fish disappear. Most of the words we
say have something to do with fish.
And when they’re gone, they’re gone.

“The Clock” by Victoria Chang, from the forthcoming OBIT by Victoria Chang, copyright © 2020 Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.