Elisabetha Hevelius

by Elizabeth Henderson


I remember those nights in Sternenburg,
marking time and light in the City of Stars --

a strange place then to bring a bride, to win her
mind with the shared labors of scientific inquiry.

Some thought it folly, could not comprehend,
but then, your keen eye always saw further than other men's.

Remember when Halley came to Gdansk? A spy
for the Royal Society, squabbling men of little faith

who could not believe the extent of our vision,
the precision of our art without their modern lens --

you insisted the instruments need not be modern,
but that the mind must be willing to bend,

and showed to our young guest the finest
measure of a minute, our private success.

After the fire brought everything down,
the books, the charts, the instruments,

I remember how your grieved,
drawing in the space of anonymous sky

a new pattern in the dark, our sextant,
its silver line longer than a woman's body,

remembering the courting of a thousand stars,
our nights mapping them together.


Copyright © 2003, Elizabeth Henderson
Sextans Uraniae

Sextans
by Johan Hevelius


Elizabeth Henderson is a southern poet and astronomer. She thanks her mother for teaching her the stars in the sky, and her father for giving her the moon in a telescope.

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Image courtesy of Istituto di Fisica Generale Applicata, UniversitÓ degli Studi di Milano