The Nilometer
Kepler used to say science was thinking
      God’s thoughts
after he was finished with them, 
      but what did God think 
about the Nilometer, meant to measure 
      the rising floodwaters 
in the delta, but useless beyond 
      the fertile plain? 
Everything I know about Egypt 
      I learned in school: 
a skull could be pulled intact 
      from the sand there, 
wrapped in tuile, its face 
      painted on the outside, 
buried beneath the point 
      of a pyramid. Not one, but many
who lived among them 
      believed the sun 
was the iris of just one
      God’s eye, unlike Kepler, 
who kept navigating the elliptical 
      outline of the universe, 
as concretely defined 
      as the moon-shell surface 
of an elephant’s pupil, or the golden
      nail of a fly’s cornea. 
Convex compass to constellation: 
      unaware how deep it ran, 
or to which country 
      he’d return when he set out 

to prove no God but nature, 
      the sun’s red collapse
into the river, the world 
      washing up on its shores.
Copyright © 2004–2021 Memorious