Thomas Lynch reads

Euclid

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What sort of morning was Euclid having
when he first considered parallel lines?
Or that business about how things equal
to the same thing are equal to each other?
Who’s to know what the day has in it?
This morning Burt took it into his mind
to make a long bow out of Osage orange
and went on eBay to find the cow horns
from which to fashion the tips of the thing.
You better have something to pass the time,
he says, stirring his coffee, smiling.
And Murray is carving a model truck
from a block of walnut he found downstairs.
Whittling away he thinks of the years
he drove between Detroit and Buffalo
delivering parts for General Motors.
Might he have nursed theorems on lines and dots
or the properties of triangles or
the congruence of adjacent angles?
Or clearing customs at Niagara Falls,
arrived at some insight on wholes and parts
or an axiom involving radii
and the making of circles, how distance
from a center point can be both increased
endlessly and endlessly split—a mystery
whereby the local and the global share
the same vexations and geometry?
Possibly this is where God comes into it,
who breathed the common notion of coincidence
into the brain of that Alexandrian
over breakfast twenty-three centuries back,
who glimpsed for a moment that morning the sense
it all made: life, killing time, the elements,
the dots and lines and angles of connection—
an egg’s shell opened with a spoon, the sun’s
connivance with the moon’s decline, Sophia
the maidservant pouring juice; everything,
everything coincides, the arc of memory,
her fine parabolas, the bend of a bow,
the curve of the earth, the turn in the road.