Outside his Cincinnati windows, a street game in full swing.
Some kid shouts Safe! Another jeers Symmes’ hole!
A fight breaks out. Inside, Symmes keeps pressing
his human face against the frozen wall of what
is known, not seeing through but melting into it
his own features, his own strange form. He wanted
explanations for the plenty at the poles:
caribou twice the size of white-tailed deer,
white bears dwarfing black, schools of herring
that return each year fat and flashing, more fish
than ever could fit into an ice-choked ocean.
Shouldn’t the north be barren? Wouldn’t the cold…
Hope effervesced in him, bubbled toward utopia. Americus,
he’d say to his son, there is more to discover
and we’ll be patron to it. It could almost pass
for science—the icy ring and sloping verge
that he proposed, a concavity, a hole four thousand
miles across at the globe’s north end, and,
for symmetry, six thousand at the south, another earth
within our earth, more perfect, richer, the borealis
streaming from it like a neon sign.
Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.