Winner of the 2017 Penn State Harrisburg
Sgt. Robert J. Miller Poetry Prize
From the Academy of American Poets

 

Like Clockwork

The old man sleeps above me,
gentle snores amidst the obnoxious
beeping of machines. He ticks
against the smooth metal of my
bracelet, his hands, like mine, ever-moving in his dreams.

He doesn’t look at me much,
anymore. Like I’m meaningless,
like he’s given up waiting. People
come in and out and for what?
They tinker, but they can’t fix him.

The shift is sudden, one last tick and the
snoring stops. But the beeping grows louder,
frantic. People shuffle in and out, still not
doing anything. His clockwork heart
gives out.

He’s grown cold by the time someone
else takes hold. No more ticking,
at least not from him. Within my grasp
he’s grown limp, heavy, suffocating.
I’m stretched, pulled, lifted up and away.

New hands reaching in. A voice,
soft yet excited, breaches my cage.
It speaks to another, and I’m passed
around, my crown pulled and snapped back
into place.

The other’s fingers are cold against me,
like the old man’s, the pad of a thumb
gently brushing my face. Stretched again,
wrapped around another, my bracelet
chafing against unfamiliar skin.

It’s dark as the other lies amidst a pile of soft
blankets, clutching me in their fist. They press
against me, jostling my crown and
offering a soft smile as the green light
illuminates their features.

Salty tears fall upon my face, now,
blurring the crystal, making it difficult
to read. The other speaks of the old man,
of memories I can’t comprehend—
feelings that have no place with me.

Their pulse ticks in time with my own.
A clockwork heart still beats.

Sam Bixler is a first-year student. She won the 2017 Academy of American Poets Prize and also has a short story in this issue. She plans to major in English or creative writing, and hopes for career in writing or designing video games. Currently, she’s playing Fallout: New Vegas and having a heck of a time exploring the Mojave. Mozzarella sticks are her life.