Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Maragheh and Alamut

Academic journal article Parnassus : Poetry in Review

Maragheh and Alamut

Article excerpt

I love a forest gap that a hike's disclosed within an Appalachian maze of pine: a fractured column shines inside the chasm of daylight its fall created,

a cylinder of moss in an aureole of ferns, lethargic flames. To the piney woods this weekend, to your mountain cabin, we will ascend from the sentried forum;

your invitation, Steve, is accepted. Let reporters garble names on projected maps, while soldiers trap our enemies in caverns and canyons. In plusher mountains,

the talk will be of friends and relationships and minor feuds and Washington real estate; and when the stripes of sky have darkened, we will recline as the constellations

condense like drops that shingle an amber glass. The earthly paradise is an odd, remote, extravagant observatory: Palomar's egg in its nest of needles,

or Tycho Brahe's island, Uraniborg, or maybe Jaipur, sundial of the gods, where steps go slanting up a style that sunders an arch with its flooding shadow.

Or Maragheh. In what is today Iran, atop a hill, the Persian astronomer al-Tusi, midway through the thirteenth century, built an observatory

with monstrous copper quadrants and astrolabes and orreries depicting a universe where earth had rinds of sky. A splendid library coffered Hellenic classics

of physics, math and medicine: Hypsicles and Euclid, Archimedes and Ptolemy, whose Almagest acquired al-Tusi's trigonometric illuminations.

Al-Tusi, if the lore is to be believed, had been a hostage once in the mountain fort of Alamut. The first Assassins there had a school for frontierless murder.

The captive might have witnessed how solemn boys atop the Rock, when beckoned to by their lord, would glide across the sky, like divers arcing from cliff-tops in Acapulco. …

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