Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mathematics Poetry: Numbers

Mary Cornish

       I like the generosity of numbers.
       The way, for example,
       they are willing to count
       anything or anyone:
       two pickles, one door to the room,
       eight dancers dressed as swans.

       I like the domesticity of addition--
       add two cups of milk and stir--
       the sense of plenty: six plums
       on the ground, three more
       falling from the tree.

       And multiplication's school
       of fish times fish,
       whose silver bodies breed
       beneath the shadow
       of a boat.

       Even subtraction is never loss,
       just addition somewhere else:
       five sparrows take away two,
       the two in someone else's
       garden now.

       There's an amplitude to long division,
       as it opens Chinese take-out
       box by paper box,
       inside every folded cookie
       a new fortune.

       And I never fail to be surprised
       by the gift of an odd remainder,
       footloose at the end:
       forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
       with three remaining.

       Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
       two Italians off to the sea,
       one sock that isn't anywhere you look.

from Poetry magazine; Volume CLXXVI, Number 3, June 2000

Copyright 2000 by The Modern Poetry Association.
All rights reserved.

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  1. the one sock says it all - numbers are a wonderful thing aren't they..

    loved this.

    p.s. I have a real life video posted today.. come see! :)

  2. D'you know, I'm not often taken with poetry but this is the second poem today that I've connected with in some way. I think I'll post the other one on my blog (and give yours a mention, too!)

  3. Yes and the one sock is still missing.
    (I blame the Italian sailors.)

    I loved this poem and have saved it to my server. :)


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