2024 Third Place

Grinding the Lens

by Pauline May

What I remember is sliding my fingertips over the glass,
how cold it was, how silken its dome,
the size of a dinner plate.

How I watched him working, and how one day he turned to me
and said I’d witnessed the magicking of glass
to gather greater light than the human eye.

How he’d had to excavate the glass, working wet for a hundred hours.
How in a weeping of milkiness, the grit ground out the curve.
How he rubbed back and forth, round and round.

How the pitch polished and figured it smooth as an eyeball.
How he told me Galileo made his own lenses from old eyeglasses,
and was first to see the nuances of Jupiter and Moon.

What I remember is how my father ground his cancerous eye
deep into the night sky and gave me Saturn to hold in my hand.