My daughter gave me a round clock for my birthday. It has a circular, white dial like a full moon, dashed with tapering black hands. Black roman numerals swing around the circumference of the disk and at the bottom stand serenely on their heads. Each snap of the second hand is accompanied by a tick.

I haven't had a round clock for a long time. Megan told me this was for my desk, so I put it at the back, just under the window. It joins three square clocks already in residence: one on the far edge facing the sofa, one on top of the computer monitor, and a tiny one in a corner of the monitor screen. When I sit at my desk I am relentlessly aware of what time it is. These three square clocks, with their segmented black numerals, flash time that looks impressively specific. However, they habitually disagree with one another, reminding me that "specific" is not the same as accurate. Right now I have my choice of 12:31, 12:32, or 12:33. Make that 12:34.

The round clock ticks. It looks like it's about 12:34. Rather, it looks like we're about halfway through our stroll around the 12 o'clock hour. The square clocks' jittery black dashes blink and twitch in their fight to be specific, but the round clock shows proportional time. The underlying disk is unchanging but endlessly redivisible, like an everlasting pie. On that round, bland face I can see all the other numbers waiting their turn, and later today each will step on stage for an hour. I can imagine where I will be when it's between the four and five, between the eight and nine. Next time it's in the twelves I'll be sleeping, and this clock will still be patiently here, ticking around the circle.

This clock is new, but other round clocks have been near me all my life, quiet monitors. ...

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