Academic journal article The Hudson Review

My Father and the Hydrostatic Paradox

Academic journal article The Hudson Review

My Father and the Hydrostatic Paradox

Article excerpt

Pressure being proportional to depth alone, a very small quantity of liquid may balance any quantity, however great.

-Lancelot Hogben, Science for the Citizen

My father made up his mind that old swamp water

Wouldn't come up our basement drain again

In the next hard rain and float

Storage boxes around the laundry tubs

And rust his tools and douse the furnace grate

And slosh and scuttle into the coal bin

And just sit there

For days, a brew of sedges and rotten leaves

And the bric-a-brac of sewers, a mulch

Of the drowned stuffing of cattails, as slippery

As Lever Brothers, as oily as Standard Oil,

Our next-door neighbors. So upright in that drain

He screwed a yard-long gun-metal-blue

Steel pipe and told me the tale of the paradox:

A half a gallon could stand against Wolf Marsh

And all the cubic miles of Lake Michigan

If they tried to swamp us again. Through the next rain

We stood between the wet foot of the stairs

And his muddy workbench, watching the underworld

Around us climb the inside of that pipe

An inch a minute up to the foamy brim,

Then quiver and stop, defeated. …

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