A Clock In Amber Charles Turner Poetry

local_library A Clock In Amber

by Charles Turner

Published in Issue No. 285 ~ February, 2021

I found a clock in amber in my bedside table,

its hands suspended, honey-bound, at 12.00.

How it got there among discarded Covid masks

and long-dead cell phones, I cannot say.

In the tiny circle below its yellowed hands,

a single pointer marked 6.30 beside an

inset window capped in magnifying crystal.

The day/month/year were too discolored

to reveal when the clock had stopped.


I felt no sense of imminence in holding it,

as if it had been there unnoticed all along,

patient for discovery like a golden scarab

in the rubble of an ancient tomb.

If there was meaning to its pointing hands,

I failed to find it as I sat among my meds

and empties, staring out the window

at the UPS trucks rushing cold salvation

to the arms of first-responders,

smiling on TV to quell our fears.


I’d been feeling out of sorts all day (just

a winter cough and muscle aches),

when I thought I heard a voice—

a woman’s—so clear, so present,

I spun around to scan the room.

It was one of those hypnogogic flashbacks—

words spoken by my mother years ago

as she lay dying in a distant hospital

I’d woken up at dawn to reach in time.

I saw your grandfather in the doorway . . .

He beckoned to me . . . You really needn’t stay . . .

At noon they pulled the curtain and I fled.


Such memories bring on chills and fever.

The clock was cool and glassy in my hand.

Another truck, FedEx this time, hurried by

to boos and middle fingers from

a crowd of anti-vaxxers in the street.

I reached up to shut the window

when a yellow-spotted spider

landed out of nowhere on the sill.

Then the clock began to tick inside the amber.

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Charles Turner is a retired Professor of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA., where he coordinated the Film Studies program and directed the university's Ireland in Text & Image summer program.