THEODOLITES

 

I come out of the museum and see,

spread across the lawn,

a surveying class. Strings of students

 

at yellow tripods, adjusting their lenses,

making notes, working to find

parallactic angles. Some hold

 

fluttering aliform handouts. I walk a bit

then stop to watch, attracted by

such earnest concentration.

 

Lost in geometry, students adjust

plumb bobs, measure

the angle of the distant horizon.

 

Then I look down. I stand

on a stretch of sidewalk

imprinted with the feet of a bird,

 

whose past cavorting

etches the concrete.

The patterns of those three toes

 

look like tripods, as if the bird

was prescient enough to plot

a map for future surveying students.

 

They were foretold!

And with a click,

the whole world triangulates.

 

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She co-edits the journal Beltway Poetry Quarterly and the web exhibit DC Writers’ Homes. Roberts has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, HumanitiesDC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 18 artist colonies. Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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