ILLYRIA


(Humphrey Davy in Austro-Slovenia, 1828)

 

This time’s as if

I hadn’t made new worlds –

disproved phlogiston, separated air,

discovered laughing gas and chlorine,

purple iodide, the weight of oxygen

with steel-necked flasks and bubbling

electrolysis.  My safety lamp

 

that stopped mines from exploding

floats far above

this valley opening to

trout streams which invite a fly. 

Since I was prentice

in Penzance, age ten, the power

of shaded pools for casting lines

 

has been my fortitude. 

A year beyond two fits

to bring back writing with my hand

just doubles this green peace,

my hillside house, the pliant

girl who helps me reach the banks

and warms my bed. 

 

An angler’s mind

preserves small things:  this glistered

drop on twine; the level azure

of her Alpine eye.  And sees

how separation is mere part.

How bonds that Volta seems to break

may in another state re-tie. 

 

So to my last experiment: 

maintaining course,

to die.


First published in Spectral Lines:  Poems About Scientists, An Anthology (Alternating Current Press, 2019)