Establishing the Metre

Like tailors who must know their clients’ girths
two men set out to find the sprawling measure of the earth.
They walked the curve from Rodez to Barcelona,
and Barcelona to Dunkirk. Such a pilgrimage!
They did not call it inches, miles or chains –
this distance which as yet had no clear name.
Between France and Spain they dared to stretch
uncalibrated measuring tapes. And foot
by weary foot, they found a rhythm
the measure that exists in everything.

From The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. Reproduced with kind permission from Carcanet.