"But Sir," I questioned Young Tiresias,
what is the meaning of this?"
watching the clockfaces buckle and burn,
hissing and ticking despondently.
In their flames I thought to see
the faces of a hundred imps
moaning, groaning, grinning.
"These clocks all told the Time
in places that no longer exist."
replied mine host dispassionately.
Picking up an exquisite Ormolu piece
from a pile on the floor by his feet
he threw it on the roaring blaze.
"That one told the time on a little
world somewhere in Cygnus Minor,"
he smiled, "a pleasant spot for observing swans
but alas it was struck by an asteroid
just two hours earlier and is now
no more than cinders and ash.
Now where I wonder is that dratted cat?
Pushkin, make yourself useful
and prepare some chambers for our guests,
its not often we get visitors
so give them the best
- the East Wing should do,
it has a particularly lovely view
of Egypt in the morning
though do make sure you sweep it out.
I passed it by the other day
and thought I heard some creature snoring,
probably some lazy sphinx,
catching up on forty thousand winks...
We stayed with Tiresias for several days
and watched him at his peculiar craft,
making the timepieces for new-born worlds
and seeing that those already in his care
were kept in good repair and did not stray
by as little or as much as a second in any given day.
In the evenings we sat and dined before the fire
and Pushkin the cat proved himself an admirable poet
when suitably primed with kippers and fresh cream,
for which he had an inordinate liking
- although he was also quite partial to bananas
mashed with peppermint ice-cream.
Taking advantage of the downpour outside,
(which showed no sign of abating)
he entertained us with epic verse and song,
accompanying himself on an antique pewter harp
strung with his ancestors whiskers.
Ocassionally we caught sight of another
extremely beautiful snow-white cat
whom, Tiresias explained, was Pushkin's sister,
a reknowned operatic singer, especially at night,
but extremely shy with strangers.
Once I saw her by moonlight
through the glass of the Egyptian-facing
guestroom window, wandering the dunes
and practicing her tunes
but when she saw me observing her she leapt
down the entrance of a half-finished tomb,
outside of which a tall blind Priestess
was bent almost double across a great Loom
spinning some fabric as dark as the night
whilst stars fell behind her as flashes of light.