How do the winter moths survive when other moths die? What enables them to avoid freezing as they rest, and what makes it possible for them to fly -- and so to seek food and mates -- in the cold? Bernd Heinrich, Scientific American
1. The Himalayas
The room lies there, immaculate, bone light on white walls, shell-pink carpet, and pale, too, are the wrists and hands of professors gathered in the outer hall where behind darkness and a mirror they can observe unseen. They were told: high in the Himalayas Buddhist monks thrive in sub-zero cold far too harsh for human life. Suspended in the deep grace of meditation, they raise their body heat and do not freeze to death. So five Tibetan monks have been flown to Cambridge and the basement of Reed Hall. They sit now with crossed legs and slight smiles, and white sheets lap over their shoulders like enfolded wings. The sheets are wet, and drops of water trickle down the monks' bare backs. The professors wait patiently but with the widened eyes of fathers watching new babies in hospital cribs. Their aluminum clipboards rest gently in their laps, their pens are poised, and in a well-lit room in Cambridge five Tibetan monks sit under heavy wet sheets and steam begins to rise from their shoulders.
2. Burn Ward
My friend speaks haltingly, the syllables freezing against the night air because the nurse's story still possesses him, the ease with which she tended patients so lost in pain, so mangled, scarred, and abandoned in some arctic zone of uncharted suffering that strangers stumbling onto the ward might cry out, rushing back to a world where the very air did not grieve flesh. Empathy was impossible, he said. A kind of fog or frozen lake lay between her and the patient, far away. Empathy was an insult, to look into the eyes of the consumed and pretend, I know. It must have been this lake, this vast glacial plain that she would never cross, where the patient waved in the blue-gray distance, alone and trembling the way winter moths tremble to warm themselves, while she stood, also alone and freezing, on the other side, it must have been this unbearable cold that made her drive straight home one day, sit down cross-legged in the center of and empty garage, pour the gasoline on like a balm, and calmly strike a match like someone starting a winter fire, or lost and searching in the frozen dark.
The Art of the Lathe
- by B H Fairchild64
Leonardo imagined the first one. The next was a pole lathe with a drive cord, illustrated in Plumier's L'art de tourner en perfection. Then Ramsden, Vauconson, the great Maudslay, his student Roberts, Fox, Clement, Whitworth.
The long line of machinists to my left lean into their work, ungloved hands adjusting the calipers, tapping the bit lightly with their fingertips. Each man withdraws into his house of work: the rough cut, shearing of iron by tempered steel, blue-black threads lifting like locks of hair, then breaking over bevel and ridge. Oil and water splash over the whitening bit, hissing. The lathe on night-shift, moonlight silvering the bed-ways.
The old man I apprenticed with, Roy Garcia, in silk shirt, khakis, and Florsheims. Cautious, almost delicate explanations and slow, shapely hand movements. Craft by repetition. Haig and Haig behind the tool chest.
In Diderot's Encyclopaedia, an engraving of a small machine shop: forge and bellows in back, in the foreground a mandrel lathe turned by a boy. It is late afternoon, and the copper light leaking in from the street side of the shop just catches his elbow, calf, shoe. Taverns begin to crowd with workmen curling over their tankards, still hearing in the rattle of carriages over cobblestone the steady tap of the treadle, the gasp and heave of the bellows.
The boy leaves the shop, cringing into the light, and digs the grime from his fingernails, blue from bruises. Walking home, he hears a clavier— Couperin, maybe, a Bach toccata—from a window overhead. Music, he thinks, the beautiful. Tavern doors open. Voices. Grab and hustle of the street. Cart wheels. The small room of his life. The darkening sky.
I listen to the clunk-and-slide of the milling machine, Maudsley's art of clarity and precision: sculpture of poppet, saddle, jack screw, pawl, cone-pulley, the fit and mesh of gears, tooth in groove like interlaced fingers. I think of Mozart folding and unfolding his napkin as the notes sound in his head. The new machinist sings Patsy Cline, I Fall to Pieces. Sparrows bicker overhead. Screed of the grinder, the bandsaw's groan and wail.
In his boredom the boy in Diderot studies again through the shop's open door the buttresses of Suger's cathedral and imagines the young Leonardo in his apprenticeship staring through the window at Brunelleschi's dome, solid yet miraculous, a resurrected body, floating above the city.
Outside, a cowbird cries, flapping up from the pipe rack, the ruffling of wings like a quilt flung over a bed. Snow settles on the tops of cans, black rings in a white field. The stock, cut clean, gleams under lamplight. After work, I wade back through the silence of the shop: the lathes shut down, inert, like enormous animals in hibernation, red oil rags lying limp on the shoulders of machines, dust motes still climbing shafts of dawn light, hook and hoist chain lying desultory as an old drunk collapsed outside a bar, barn sparrows pecking on the shores of oil puddles— emptiness, wholeness; a cave, a cathedral.
As morning light washes the walls of Florence, the boy Leonardo mixes paints in Verrocchio's shop and watches the new apprentice muddle the simple task of the Madonna's shawl. Leonardo whistles a canzone and imagines a lathe: the spindle, bit, and treadle, the gleam of brass.
Poems by B H Fairchild, B H Fairchild's poems collection. B H Fairchild is a classical and famous poet (1942 - / Houston, Texas.). Share all poems of B H Fairchild.