Last night when I got up around 2:00 to go to the john, walking through my silent house I found myself thinking, I wish I had one of those clocks that goes tick tock and chimes (softly!) on the hour.

It would be practical. We get a lot of power outages here, on the order of half a dozen a year. Until this Christmas, when my father gave me a watch, the only way I could find out what time it was when the power returned would be to turn on the computer and go to the website of the National Atomic Clock (my computer’s own clock is unreliably slow).

Beyond that, there’s just something inherently cool about a machine that can run without batteries and without any external power supply beyond its weekly winding. Despite what I said yesterday about machines, I’m not immune to their attraction. In fact, there’s definitely something attractive, even charismatic about more self-contained and alternatively powered machines such as wind-up clocks and water wheels. They remind me of the cybernetic systems (as we choose to parse them) within Nature herself. As a poet, how could I help but be fascinated by the capacity of natural systems to self-regulate and self-perpetuate, known nowadays as autopoiesis?

Most pre-modern, oral cultures attributed life – spiritual existence, autopoiesis – to any charismatic object, but especially to anything that could generate sound. I believe that this reflects a deeply ingrained intuition, and may be responsible for our modern near-worship of the internal combustion engine. We are all, in a sense, cargo cultists. In fact, I’ve been thinking of getting out the epoxy and balsa wood and building me a little toy jeep to place in my shrine. I sure could use a set of wheels.

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