Sleep and Time (VN Diary No. 24)

Slept badly last night. Actually, didn't sleep much at all.. Drank an espresso in the late afternoon and it kept me up until nearly four this morning. It didn't help that the clock in the St. Joseph's bell tower tolls on the quarter hour. The bell itself is not robust -- not the big French casting one would imagine given the history of the church. Instead, I imagine one of those large Chinese gongs with a knob in the center and some kind of Soviet-era mechanical device that brings a hammer down on it. To make it even more difficult for the sleeper, sometimes the bell tolls once, sometimes twice and occasionally three times at each quarter hour, without apparent pattern. The first couple of nights I was here, jet-lagged, I thought the hour got three bells, the half hour two and the quarters one each, but that is not the case I discovered last night. Like so many things here, the order, if there is an order, is not apparent, appearing random, capricious.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

1 thought on “Sleep and Time (VN Diary No. 24)”

  1. Couldn’t extract those bells from my head…


    That the world is a filthy place
    that we may have killed it for good
    that we become lethal to one another
    that the cracked tower bell
    rings fives times at nine o’clock

    These incur capacities
    accumulating lunar dust
    which stirs when the bell
    leaps up into the tower to see
    what beauty’s up to

    at this ungodly hour
    the faithful arrive again
    at their abandoned shred
    of truth and cling
    to the power of clinging
    which alone can save.

Comments are closed.