"Hard Sciences"


That's what we call them when we choose, instead,
Botany, soft as Easter after Lent,
which promises translation of our dead
into one green, perpetual testament;
Zoology, that clever joke on time
whose intricate, obsessive play on form
links past and future through the almost-rhyme
of flipper, fin and finger, swim and swarm.
Those others measure scattered light not ours
to read our fortunes by; they will not bend
maternal over us like funeral flowers.
Those are hard sciences; they never mend
what living breaks. Except as headstones may,
by naming, standing up for what they say.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Rehearsing Absence, University of Evansville Press, 2001.