You ask from whence we came—
from many places. Some are legends now,
some unremembered. You make us into kings.
We were not kings, not even of ourselves.
Were we from the east? That is a point of view.
We set out from where we were. You give us names
like Melchior and Balthazar,
but those were not our names. From time to time
we have been called by many names—
Plato, Confucius, Archimedes,
Copernicus, Galileo, Newton,
Descartes, Darwin, Einstein, Heisenberg.
How long did the journey take? Months? Centuries?
When does a myth take hold,
in a moment or a thousand years?
Though calendars and clocks may shepherd it
with careful numbers, yet in the wilderness time
howls like a pack of wolves. We heard it all night long.
We were both men and women. What we shared
was an unquenchable desire to know
something not known before. Were we wise?
Wise to leave our homes, acquaintances and all
the comfort of familiar irritations,
shedding the fabric of our former lives
like an old coat? Wise to risk
everything on our unlikely theories
with no guarantee of safe return,
and reckless that the truth that we discover
may prove, for all we know, fatal
to everything to which we have thus far clung?
If this is wisdom, yes,
you may say that we were wise.
The first of four poems in the sequence Magi.
This poem was originally entitled Magi but was renamed to remove confusion with the name of the sequence to which it belongs.
© Godfrey Rust 1998, firstname.lastname@example.org. See here for permissions.