Galton’s Sight

  
 
 
Roy Woolley divides his time between Derby and London. His work appears in the Oxford Initiate anthology and in various magazines. A version of ‘Galton’s Sight’ is currently part of an exhibition in the Oxford Museum of Science. 
 
 
 
Galton’s Sight

  
He’s spent a week watching cloud-shapes
unfold on the hill-side in order to estimate
their density, the composition of future rain,
the refractive index of wet skin after a downpour.
 
He measures everything: the separate shades of green
in the serving dish, the average weight of clocks
in the houses he visits, the changes in his packed body
as it moves through the seasons,
 
words cooling in mirrors like ferns in ice-water.
He wants the pattern behind these events
made clearer with repetition
like the nature of God released by a mantra.
 
He’s distilled language to its expressive bones
and layers each page with diagrams in rows
to track the features these histories yield,
the new ways of seeing he’s clarified and named.
 
He folds a map of the sky into his head
and works out the twists and spills
of water going backwards in a cyclone.
The lines intersecting in his skull
 
converge to a golden child he’ll describe late in life
when he writes the novel his niece will burn.
He hears colours unlocked by the word,
tastes the shape each sense can make.
 
His time in Africa is the note that tells of beginnings
a darkness that makes each fingerprint burn bright
as a name, as clear as the star orchestrating the weather,
this other ‘great bell ringing out light’.

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