Overtop a Roadside Gutter (Poem)

Photo by David Buchi on Pexels.com

Yesterday was Sunday, and on Sundays during these strange pandemic days—because I live in a touristy area—I try to avoid the downtown. But I still like to get out for some fresh air (breathed through a mask, of course) and exercise.

I chose to wander some back streets and visit some temples off the main tourist track. While wandering, I noticed something shiny caught between slabs of concrete running overtop* a roadside gutter.** Being round and roughly watch-shaped, I initially thought it was just that, a watch. Upon closer inspection, however, I discovered it was the cap of a drink or something similar.

Still, the idea of a watch face caught between two slabs of concrete stuck with me, and I came up with part of this before I’d walked much further. It’s still not quite where I want it, but if I fiddle any further, it’ll be forgotten in the Notes app of my phone, likely forever.

Overtop a Roadside Gutter

Today
Caught between two slabs of concrete
Overtop a roadside gutter
I saw a watch.

Just the face,
That someone had left to fall in that place
At some time and why
Both unknown to me.

And looking down
I saw the face was smashed,
The crystal fragmented,
Hands forever at half past.

This watch, trapped in time and
Between two slabs of concrete
Overtop a roadside gutter,
Abandoned there—but why?

Perhaps the owner, upset
At time having stopped
Had let her watch drop
Between two slabs of concrete,
And had left it there.

Perhaps the owner, upset,
Had watched her watch fall,
Smash, become trapped and stop
Overtop a roadside gutter.
And had left it there.

But for whatever reason
The watch was left to drop,
It was left there.

Trapped between two slabs of concrete
Overtop a roadside gutter,
Where even as I walked,
Stopped,
Took notice of this watch,

Time, frozen, looked up,
Unblinking from its spot,
Caught between two slabs of concrete
Overtop a roadside gutter.

*A note on “overtop”: I used “overtop” without thinking about it too much—it just came naturally to me when I composed the sentence. But for some reason, before posting, I decided to look the word up.

To my great surprise, the definitions I found did not match my intended usage. Had I been using this word wrong my entire life? A possibility, sure, but painful to admit. So I googled the word rather than searching in specific dictionaries. Well, I’ll be darned—apparently, it’s a Canadian thing.

**Roadside gutters are common in Japan. In our city, most are covered with concrete slabs, but there are plenty of areas where the gutters remain open. I’m not ashamed to say that this terrifies me, as you do hear the occasional story of a child or indeed a grown person being washed away in these open gutters during or after a storm.

Published by helenkamakura

Helen is a Canadian writer and innkeeper based in Kamakura, Japan, where she lives with her Japanese husband and two children. If money became obsolete, she would happily accept peaches, fresh peas, and sun-warmed cherry tomatoes in exchange for her labour.

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