by Danielle Kotrla

          In short, all the materials of thinking are derived either from our outward
          or inward sentiment…or, all our ideas or more feeble perceptions are copies
          of our impressions or more lively ones.
                    — David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding


Yesterday, on Hickory, I watched
a woman shift the route of her mower

to avoid a patch of bluebonnets. An edge cut
precisely for the sake of a few flowers,

                    sure to be dead next week.

This morning I tell a friend I’m turning
to the road again, the two months spent here

growing, and growing long. If I were foolish

enough to believe I’d given you those flowers,
each turn of petal to white tip, I’d be mistaken.

Our impression of them, now merely an idea
                    untouchable and faint.

Even the imprint of her sneakers in dead
grass withered and lost, perhaps by now.

I am not alone in this frustration, I know,

how the single counter Hume could find
to this argument was that, given a gradient

of blue—a lifetime’s collection of shades
experienced—with merely one missing,

the mind still seems able to fill in the blank.

But this, a singular instance, he noted,
and scarcely worth observation.

Think of Hume’s surprise—had he been alive
to see it—when, nearly forty years later, a man

summits Mont Blanc clutching scraps
of paper dyed every blue he could recall

and, once at its peak, held each to the horizon
until he was sure of the match.

                                                   The thirty-ninth
degree, he determined, and began his descent.

Thus taking on the task of creating a device
to measure every iteration of sky.         Imagine

that first night: Horace-Bénédict de Saussure
at his desk spreading those blues before him

and discovering one misplaced, perhaps carried
away by some swift gust on the mountainside,

perhaps never perceived in the first place.

How lucky for Saussure, that even upon seeing
a glimpse of hardwood, he could fabricate

                              the distant and missing.

Ce phénomène m’avoit souvent frappé,
this phenomenon had often struck me,

how last night, sleepless and anticipating
departure, I laid in bed and traced the veins

of my wrist, thought robin’s egg, cerulean,
          something just short of sky.


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