Lord Byron died the very year
that sperm were proved,
beyond all doubt, to be
essential to fertilization.
No more virgin births. That year
Beethoven’s Choral Symphony
astounded the air. He was guided
gently to face the audience
that rose in an ovation
he couldn’t hear. Tears
were everywhere. Who remembers
J.L. Prevost or J.B. Dumas
or knows how they unraveled
the mystery of sperm? That same year
workers finished the Erie Canal
and Simon Bolivar was proclaimed
Emperor of Peru. The canal workers
didn’t know or care about Peru
nor did they hear the “Ode to Joy.”
My great-great grandmother was born
that year, to later travel the length
of the canal. Three hundred million
sperm swim up the birth canal.
A few thousand reach the oviduct.
The ovum chooses one (on rare
occasions more). Then, as usual,
life went on. Joseph Aspdin developed
Portland Cement while the U.S.
House elected John Quincy Adams when
The voters couldn’t make up their minds.
“Reading History a Year at a Time” by Joan McIntosh from Greatest Hits: 1975-2000. © Pudding House Publications.