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  • Georges Lemaitre
  • Daniel Tobin (bio)

Mon ami, mon frère, in the trenches nearly mon semblable, Georges et Georges, though you changed back to Joris to claim outright your Flemish past, a Flemish future,

let this be my last letter to you if only in my mind. Into every horizon brims the ancient light one hears like a primal score, before which everything evolves.

To think then of the infinite lives, each entangled, like yours and mine, never to be separated despite, Van Severen, the severances passing; us at the front

with our bibles, our Bloy, his passion for the poor, for justice, you with your felt wrongs, your drive for redress by which you fashioned your visionary

gleam, self cult, the Fascist idol for which you died. I preferred my silent retreats, my Poincare, the dual certitude of a double path, divergent, to the truth.

Still, I pray I might have turned you from that road, a tragic strut, your bit part on time’s proscenium. I have had my journey, too, and have followed it

faithfully, a rightness, like the eclipse I witnessed before my own came on: the observatory in Milan, that halo when the three bodies perfectly aligned,

not only in equations but in the flesh. We are all strayed lines in a greater story we see, at best, darkly— the rooster crows and thinks it makes the sun rise.” [End Page 123]

Daniel Tobin

Daniel Tobin is the author of six books of poems, most recently Belated Heaven, winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. “George Lemaitre” is part of From Nothing, a book-length poem about the priest/physicist who was the first to conceptualize the universe beginning in a singular event—the Big Bang.


* Joris Van Severen (1894–1940), was a close friend of Lemaitre’s in the trenches of World War I and became a vocal member of the Front Movement of Flemish soldiers who became ardent Flemish nationalists. They both shared an ardent Catholic faith inspired by Leon Bloy (1846–1917), the French religious philosopher and advocate for the poor. Severen and Lemaitre’s friendship dissolved as van Severen became more radical in his politics, eventually gravitating to right wing sympathies. He was executed in 1940 by French soldiers. [End Page 124]



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