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Outside the blizzard days of 1880 have quieted

New England tastes a bit of a thaw

and in the stark winter light of his Cambridge workshop

where a glassine residue drifts in fine rills

and his working telescope casts a devilish shadow

Clark stills his eyes and sees with skin

glides fingertips over his paired refractory lenses

a skater marking perfect figures on perfect ice

years of grinding and polishing such optics

have stripped the lines from his palms and fingers

substituted his spiraled evidence of self

with creases and the red fissures of Mars

often they have picked clean his ego and left him

hiking along the barren shores of physics

always there is this unquenched desire

a raw thirst for precision for absolutes

for the lost terrains of Xanadu or Johannes Kepler

yet he finds truth where he can find it

later he will cup his fists into the Charles

and disturb a cold river of stars

with a touch so sensitive that even simple objects

reveal an order within the curvature to chaos

and all surfaces reveal identities

a smooth continuity of singing fractions

and to pass on to his sons

a rough guide to the musics of the sphere




Robert Frazier is the author of eight previous books of poetry, and a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry. He has won an Asimov's Reader Award and been on the final ballot for a Nebula Award for fiction. His books include Perception BarriersThe Daily Chernobyl, and Phantom Navigation (2012). His 2002 poem "A Crash Course in Lemon Physics" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Recent works have appeared in Asimov's Science Fiction, Dreams & Nightmares, and Strange Horizons. His long poem "Wreck-Diving the Starship" was a runner-up for a 2011 Rhysling Award. He can be reached by email at raf@nantucket.net.
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18 May 2020

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