A clock is started in a woman’s body when her pregnancy begins, says Eleni Sikelianos: that of the unborn body which begins to “converse” with the “external body” of the mother.
“the baby in the body-clock”
The world is time, all life growth experiences are time
“whatever the dimensions in which a body grows, it grows or atrophies in time”
“L’horloge au corps” by Eleni Sikelianos can be read as the sensory experience of the embedding of these clocks, in both directions of space, towards the infinitely large or the infinitely small, just like the baby is embedded in the body of the mother. The organs the parts of the body, lung, heart, tibia, iliac bone, vertebrae, dialogue, stop or start time, define it and measure it.
“Time was the question”
The book, the poem itself participate in this temporal cascade. Eleni Sikelianos uses image and text to create experiences related to what her body experiences in the suspended time of gestation. The book does not present itself, therefore, as opposed to, or even separated from, the world, but as playing its part in this totality, with all the discrepancies undergone or sought.
At the other end of the chain, the body of the mother, the baby – the bodies of the mothers and the babies – dance a round with the terrestrial globe, all on the same scale in one of the drawings which participate with the text, in book economy. L’horloge au corps must indeed be read as a work placed under the sign of knowledge, where text, sketches, notes, drafts, plans, ideas thrown on the page serve as a poetic matrix. The drawing is not an illustration of the text, nor the text commentary on the drawing. Each in its place creates a space where the imagination can unfold. The acts of writing and reading give a time reference (why not to a “performance” type approach?)
So it is with the “minute” whose design, a circle filled with dots representing the seconds, and whose termination time is measured.
Drawing a “good-fat-meaty minute” can take only 31 seconds, and one can “speeding up and slowing down” draw “a minute that takes a minute.” So it is from the microcosm to the macrocosm.
“The Earth shows us how
a minute is round as is an hour, a day
Since it is round, we inevitably return to ourselves”
The growth of the baby in the body of the mother, a unique experience, is a universal phenomenon, not only in the gestation of humans, even of mammals, but depends on general laws of development. The scientific imagination of L’horloge au corps is anchored on a famous zoological treatise by D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Form and Growth, which shows how in the development of individuals – healthy or sick – as in the evolution of species time leads living beings to occupy the possible spaces of forms that are preserved and modified, inducing a paradoxical dialectic between the recognizable invariant and the surprise of the new.
“the black and white scanner of the
disturbed boy’s brain
shimmers on the monitor
between muscle & tendon, tendon and brain
The little boy’s eye, and his brain.
Whatever the body the size of the eye is almost the same”
The mother-child couple being at the very heart:
“As it grows from me to it it is a field of symmetry”
Eleni Sikelianos thus undertakes, from the desire to make the personal account of the arrival of a child a universal story, not only in the sense that it can be shared by all. She connects her experience to the universe, from the atom to the gene and from the body to the cosmos in a work “cosmographikos universalis”
This is where lies the fascination that seizes the reader when faced with this book, which passes without transition from the reminder of scientific observation, never neutral, to the most intimate event. Dreams, daily details, nothing that remains abstract or cerebral.
“suspended in the dream like the mirrors of a day the familiar objects
one day: flat
with blue border, baby bootie
trimmed with a ribbon,
objects, more magnificent on the oilcloth of the dream, background on which all the things of the day could pass
hypothetical and new as if we were re-making an alphabet
: yellow oilskins to serve
of A and E – vowels if
radiant that they are waterproof »
The Body Clock is exciting enough to be read in one go and substantial enough to take the time to live with it a bit, like the books you know you’re going to love.