London, November 1667
Once student of Pembroke College,
Who read in perfect Latin the lessons at Wilkins Church
Before growing “a bit crackt” and soon, without “sound employ,”—
Not a fool, mind you,
Was glad for a guinea to open his vein
And receive in it the blood of a sheep. The room in Arundel House
Shimmered with furs and silks.
Diviners, physicians, members of Parliament, the Royal Society’s Fellows—
It was rumored the King himself
Awaited the news.
They cut the neck of the poor mewling thing. Attached the end of a slim
Silver pipe to the wound, the other to Coga’s bulging vein,
Quills to hold the two together. Then the blood of beast
Flowed freely into man,
Cool as a meadow stream or breeze lifting from a hillock.
Someone shouted from the back of the room,
What say you? Speak! Coga coughed,
Sputtered, and announced himself Quite ready, sir!
For a glass of wormwood wine.
When Hooke checked Coga’s pulse, announcing it “stronger and fuller,”
The room erupted
In a gentleman’s cheer. . . .
A few weeks later, the letter came.
Calling himself “God’s lamb,” but without hooves or wooly face,
Coga begged for more of the creature’s blood, so as to be made
Wholly sheep. Poor man! And yet,
What would it be to know
What a sheep knows, standing beneath its willow?
To hear the dialects of birds, quite distinct
From the dialects of leaves? Time passing, a whorl of water, sprinkle of grass,
A sparrow’s fleet shape
Cutting across the moist upper round of one’s eye. And of that
Or any such intrusion,
No thought sprung,
No music made, no sudden
Philosophical gaze toward clouds. Just the shivering present coming on,
Raw, fresh; benign,
Or harboring the slaughter-blade.
Coga’s letter being read to the men of the Royal Society, silence fell
Across the room. Then someone—Hooke?—said briskly,
The experiment has run its course.
Much aye-ing and adjusting of monocles as they went on to ponder
What next their task should be:
To investigate pendulums, whether they run faster atop mountains? Or
To measure the spleen of the Earl of Balcarres,
Said to be exceptionally large?
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