…and the leap second


Slightly too accurate atomic time 

and the leap second 

It’s never a showy release

No floodlit stadium whooping crowd

gate lifting to loose

spindly dogs powered

by brindled legs and hunger

But more discreet

More rumour and look

the other way as a flea

– chosen for acrobatic prowess

– hailed as The nimblest this circus has ever known

is unleashed then lost

in a flicker and a blink

And we’re left with tales

of leaping a hundred times its own height

tightrope walking a line of atoms

lifting hours with its teeth dressed only

in a hat and fur stole witnessed

by a man in Bejjing and proven

by pages of numbers and symbols

that from a distance resemble

footfalls in snow Meanwhile we’re told

caesium clocks carry on


*  *  *

At 11.59 tonight GMT clocks will count 61 seconds before turning midnight as a leap second is added to time. This is to account for the difference between the slightly irregular rate of the earth’s rotation and atomic time which is constant.


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