Night Calculus

“Who remembers paradise?” ~ Marne Kilates, from “The Panels of Hieronymus Bosch”

I don’t think there were any sheep—
Or there may have been, but I didn’t see them.
Not fences either, no abacus clicking

bead by bead as each jumped over, fleece
catching in the bramble but more or less
keeping time to the ticking of the clock.

I was sleepless for such an eternity,
the apple had not yet fallen from the tree;
and the mathematician had not yet discovered

that bright chain of numbers spilling
over the narrow edge of the page, proof
of a problem everyone said could not be solved.

At some point the mathematician must have gone
to bed. At some point he must have taken off
his linen collar, his boots, breeches, hose,

exchanging these for a shapeless night-gown.
Infinitesimal, they called it—
that calculus for finding tangent

lines to curves, the canopy space
under curves, the lantern chain
of the day’s domestic worries

gathered in bubbled rows of helium
beneath the ceiling— And me,
as if on the ocean bed, hoping

at some point to fall asleep.


In response to Via Negativa: Insomniac.

One Reply to “Night Calculus”

  1. What a marvellous thing this poem is! The careful stitching of one stanza to another by links of sound and sense. making a strong and beautiful structure to support those near-impossible leaps of imagination – I love it when you do this. Thank you Luisa.

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