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In 600 BC, the Greek philosopher Thales

knew that you could chart an ocean course

by laying your fingers one above the next

to measure the space from the far horizon

to one constant star.

That mix of commonplace and mystical

– a small stack of fingers, and a star –

and you could set a course with confidence,

pushing out into unknown waters.


She is lying on her back. Her eyes are closed.

Only the smallest things can now be done.

Wet her dry lips, lightly wipe her forehead,

place a hand on hers, and hold it tightly,

sing to her a hymn she’s always known.

We are laying our fingers, one above the next,

measuring a distance to a clear horizon

not receding, but steadily moving closer.


Her breath sighs out, her body shifts and settles.

The horizon, all its clarity and faintness,

its light and dark, has slipped into the room.


I lift my fingers off her hand

and lay them, flat and steady,

on the bed.



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