Under the mountain, a clock ticks once a year
in a cavern deep as the massif is tall.
Start the climb through the desert at dawn.
There’s no water; you must ascend two thousand feet.
The clock’s gears creak. Last time it pealed its stroke,
the ice-shelf groaned, calved into the sound.
The door is steel-rimmed jade. Turn the handle;
step inside. It thuds shut in earth-core darkness.
You can make out a mineshaft, deep as a cathedral.
Above, the faintest blink of light.
You must clamber to the summit now,
up a spiral staircase, through the guts of rock.
There’s the thousand-pound counterweight
hanging like a stone whale’s heart.
Not the sort of time that flickers in a wristwatch.
This is the span of ice ages, civilisations.
Wind it – the strike of cliff-sized bells.
The clock knows the mountain under you
is moving. A dome of sapphire glass: the dial
shows the thousand-year walk of unfixed stars.
This clock can strike the time through nuclear strikes.
This clock will tick until the sea arrives.
Yvonne Reddick is the author of Translating Mountains (Seren), Spikenard
(Laureate’s Choice) and Ted Hughes: Environmentalist and Ecopoet (Palgrave). Her poetry
appears in The Guardian, PN Review and the 2018 National Poetry Competition winners’
anthology. Her latest academic project examines how contemporary poets engage with the
Anthropocene. She is an editor at Magma.