Thursday, September 20, 2012

The view from here -- or there

From Nashville math teacher and blogger, Tad Wert, I learned of this poem, "Geometry, Lost Cove" by his Harpeth Hall School colleague, Georganne Harmon; in it, Harmon examines the contrasts in appearances when objects are seen from different distances. (And the mathematician goes on to say, Ah, yes -- in other words, some mappings of a space do not preserve distance.)

    Geometry, Lost Cove     by Georganne Harmon

    The ridge across this cove
    is straight as a ruled line,
    its bend as pure as an angle
    on a student’s quadrilled page.
    Beyond it another ridge lies
    straight-backed, as well,
    drawn off by its touch with sky.

    Such perfection is a subject
    I’d like to think about
    here on this thin shelf of land:
    the earth, for instance, seen
    from an orbiting craft,
    is smooth and round --
    an eyeball, a gem on black cloth.
    Where is the rough rooty skin of it
    we know, the jagged heights of pine,
    poplar, sycamore, oak?
    Where are our lumpy villages,
    the brutish smoke of wars,
    the unsmooth teem
    of ant life in its scurry?

    At a distance, surface is easy truth:
    latitudes and longitudes, altitudes,
    and lines acute, obtuse.
    A mountain trail is straight as shot,
    a slight incline from the east,
    a thirty-degree descent
    on the other face.
    A hurricane is a cotton-swirled disturbance
    on a blue plate; yet underneath it
    secreted on another plane,
    pain rises red and anger-pussed.
    This limpid, lustrous earth.

    With this design
    I make up my face
    for someone combed
    and groomed into the angled,
    elegant shape of vee,
    leaning in an easy obtuse
    against the far wall.

The poem is found in Harmon's collection entitled We Will Have Ghosts (Weedy Editions, 2011).  A portion of all proceeds from its sale goes to a fund to help young writers.

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