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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

O for Obama

President-elect Barack Obama has selected Yale's Elizabeth Alexander to write and read a poem for his inauguration on 20 January. Intrigued by the news (because I had never heard of her, I admit, shamefaced), I looked up her works, and have decided that he has made an excellent choice.

I have a favorite work already. It is The Venus Hottentot, which begins with an ode to a microscope. Wonderfully evocative, it brought back vivid memories of the wonders that are gradually revealed when a slide with even the humblest smear beneath the cover slip is slid under the lens, and the magnification is adjusted.

Science, science, science!

Everything is beautiful

blown up beneath my glass

Colors dazzle insect wings.

A drop of water swirls

like marble. Ordinary

crumbs become stalactites

set in perfect angles

of geometry I'd thought

impossible. Few will

ever see what I see

through this microscope.

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