In April we celebrate Earth Day and National Poetry Month, and Stephen Cushman‘s poem, “Euclid Glasses Hellroaring,” connects to them both. Mr. Cushman is the Robert C. Taylor Professor of English in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia.
This is one of several recent poems featuring Euclid, the father of geometry, who lived in Alexandria from the fourth into the third century BCE. Little is known about his life in Egypt, but in these poems Euclid has the power to move around in time and space, so that, for instance, in “Euclid Glasses Hellroaring” he somehow appears in Yellowstone National Park looking for wolves on a day it is minus 15 and a UVA Alumni & Parent Travel trip happens to be in the vicinity. Hellroaring is the name of both a mountain and a creek in the northern part of the park, where the wolves will later be spotted.
Euclid Glasses Hellroaring
Plenty of tracks but not a sign
of yesterday’s wolves except for a C
backwards in snow on distant plateau
tracing the chase a local pack gave
elk for lunch. In the drainage below
creek sage, willow, cottonwoods frosted
to ghost tree albinos, and out in a meadow
an old bull bison plowing the snow
with two hundred pounds of shoveling head.
Hump pretty narrow, pelvis too prominent,
slim chance of spring for a backside slashed
with scars from horns, more curved than his,
of cows in estrus butting his rump
to say get a move on, the cycle is brief
and now behind you, grubbing for grass
alone at last with a mask of ice.
Copyright 2019 Stephen Cushman