Hypothesis Between Your Ribs

Mary Alexandra Agner

Doting father who undermined scientific thought with the idea of slow change in a fast world, would he have given his eldest daughter a hand lens or a dance card when she came of age? Annie Darwin died young and unformed, reframed by her father’s eulogy and the remnants of her writing desk passed down through generations of expansive attics. Sweet disposition, keen observer, true to her own quirks, what did she think when she saw the hippopotamus in London town? Life taught her fathers dissect daylight hours at the microscope, scribbling barnacles, worms, wonders of South America stuffed into paper cages during years of study. She had two hands: one for the fan, one for the naturalist’s case. Demure, she’d disarm you, slip her hypothesis between your ribs while her eyelashes flirted. Daddy’s favorite, she had the nibs and the knife and the know-how, had she lived, and she’d evolved to use them.

Mary Alexandra Agner writes of dead women, telescopes, and secrets in poetry, prose, and Ada. Her latest book of poetry isThe Scientific Method (Parallel Press 2011); her latest short fiction is “Chilaquiles Con Code” in the Journal of Unlikely Cryptography. She makes her home halfway up Spring Hill; she can be found online at http://www.pantoum.org.