Astralabe (a poem draft, a fragment)


Whose child was I?

Granted a name promising
stories written across stars,
access to the future, a glimpse
behind the habit my mother
sometimes wore.

Passed into the arms of Brittany
and held in stiff folds of
linen. Rustling silence and starched
piety. I wasn’t old before
I asked why

Only to be sent with my cousins
to find dandelion for dinner.
Bitter green and grey potato
filled in the hollow
of what I wanted to know.

But this name! More question than answer
to my past. An instrument through which
one gazes at sun, moon and
stars with both feet still planted
on the ground.

For readers of this blog a hint: Astralabe was the son of Heloise and Abelard, conceived illegitimately and then given to a relative to raise. He pretty much disappears from the historic record after this is noted about him. I would like to turn this draft into a poem cycle – for now it comprises another entry in my academic reading journal.

2 thoughts on “Astralabe (a poem draft, a fragment)

  1. I loved verses 1, 2, & 4 – but verse 3 !!!!! What have you been reading ? POTATOES in 12th C Brittany ?? Eating dandelions !! This is NOT Ireland in the 1840s!!
    Astralabe’s family were top drawer not peasants. Whatever gave you that idea ? Abelard’s brother was Lord of the Manor and chatelain of a significant stone built castle (still partly standing) in the days when most castles were timber structures. The Lord of Le Pallet held his lands directly from the Count of Nantes who was the son and heir of the Duke of Brittany. Abelard and his family could have dined with the Duke and not felt out of their depth. Abelard became abbot of one of the oldest and most prestigeous monasteries in Brittany; his brother as a Canon of Nantes Cathedral – another very senior position socially and politically. And don’t feel sorry for a mediaeval child fostered in the extended family. Most kids were. Very few parents lived long enough to see their children grow up. Life in the Middles Ages was generally short. Astralabe was very lucky that he was in his mid twenties when his father died and about forty when he lost his mother. I think he had problems, living with his father’s stormy reputation was one but if he wanted to repudiate his dad he could have changed hisvery distinctive name – but he didn’t. His worse psychological problem was probably living up to his parents….

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