The Microscope

By Maxine Kumin

Anton Leeuwenhoek was Dutch.
He sold pincushions, cloth, and such.
The waiting townsfolk fumed and fussed
As Anton’s dry goods gathered dust.


He worked, instead of tending store,
At grinding special lenses for
A microscope. Some of the things
He looked at were: mosquitoes’ wings,
the hairs of sheep, the legs of lice,
the skin of people, dogs, and mice;
ox eyes, spiders’ spinning gear,
fishes’ scales, a little smear
of his own blood, and best of all,
the unknown, busy, very small
bugs that swim and bump and hop
inside a simple water drop.

Impossible! Most Dutchmen said.
This Anton’s crazy in the head!
We ought to ship him off to Spain!
He says he’s seen a housefly’s brain!
He says the water that we drink
Is full of bugs! He’s mad, we think!

They called him dumkopf, which means dope.

That’s how we got the microscope.

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