time out.: a poem

clock face
Isabella Schreiber/Staff

3:04 a.m.


it is 3 a.m. when you have a disagreement with your clock.


you turn your back on it,

fold your arms,

close your eyes,

try to quell the thud thud

thudding of your heart —

you are losing to time,

you are losing time —


“stop. let’s talk it out,”

you want to say,

“let’s call a truce.

give me back what you’ve taken

and i’ll forget we ever fought.”


but you open your eyes to daylight.

you find time has left you behind.




you realize on a Tuesday that you will never have back the days you are living/losing/wasting.


time stays away for days

at first,

always just out of reach.

you forget the days of the week

so often now that you keep a calendar

on your desk.


maybe time will come back to you

this way.

maybe you will stop waking up in your sleep,

palms clammy,

toes curling,

drowning in the urgency for nothing

and everything

all at once.


you are fighting

a losing battle.

the days whittle you down to



Nov. 11


you wonder if it’d count to make a wish today


— or if you’d be cheating.


you have spent every 11:11

wishing to forget the way

your calendar is full of X’s,

one for every day

since the last time

you had time.


you make the wish anyway.

it takes closed eyes and crossed fingers

and five whole seconds.

time has evaded your grasp

for months on end by now,

and you can’t seem to do anything without losing something

with each passing second.




the ball drops, and with it, your stomach.


you feel so small in the face of a year.

nothing you’ve done has stopped time

from slipping through your fingers.

how many days have you spent?

weeks? months?

what have you to show for it?


time steals from you

even more than before.

your memory of memories fades —

was it a Wednesday

when you first started losing track of the days?


everyone is looking forward

to the “new” year,

as if time has reset to zero,

as if it had any mercy.

time is insidious that way:

it deceives you as it leaves you.


Feb. 28


today is a day that makes no sense.


the months are meaningless measures.

you throw away your X-ed out calendar

and let your watch fall out of sync

with the rest of the world.


for a brief, wild, breathless moment,

it’s almost as if you’ve stepped out of time.

for a moment, there are no numbers or words to tell you



but the sun still sets,

casting long grey shadows

across your living room floor,

and you’re reminded there is no such thing

as a time out.


you are always in time,

against time,

losing time,

losing to time.




your clock breaks on a Saturday


you take it down and store it

in the back of your closet.

a perfect circle of pale blue sits in its place,

two shades lighter than the rest of the wall.


its blankness

and the newfound silence

unnerves you,

makes your heart pound, your hands sweat,

as if you needed as much as you hated

to know the time.


you had always wished for more time.

you’re uncertain what to feel

now that you don’t know

how much you have.


3:05 a.m.


you don’t know the hour,


but you wake up in the middle of the night

for the first time in months.

the wall is still blank,

the room still silent.


the window is open, moonlight filtering in,

and you wonder if the cold woke you.

reaching blindly into the closet

for your favorite sweater,

your hand lands on the edge of something

cold and smooth.


you pull out the clock,

long forgotten and unneeded by now.

when you hold it to the moonlight,

the sleep ebbing from your eyes, you find the hands

at five past three.


a bittersweet smile tugs at your lips

as you imagine it has only been a minute.

Contact Sean Tseng at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @STWeekender24.

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