Saturday, July 24, 2010

The infinitude of ecstacy -- a la Israel Lewis

Israel Lewis is the pen name of a polymath who earned his living as a scientist and is a writer in his retirement.  His webpage offers a variety of his creations--many of them permeated with mathematics.
I present here one of my favorites, a poem in two voices that includes the mathematician Georg Cantor.  On Lewis's website is a prose rendering of the setting that surrounds the poem--and you are invited to visit the website for more information.

     Cantor:  Not Eddie
                    .....It is intended that this poem be performed dramatically in two voices.

     Snow and ice on the highway
     Dull thud crunch
     Spray of broken glass
     bones breaking



     She said
                                 He had been the lover, always there;      
all she had to do was pick up the phone.    


     She said
It was like the national phallus that rises    
on a grassy hill in Washington    
but not so pointy on top    
without flags around    
and aviation lights,    
and, of course, not quite not quite    
so high.    


     He taught her ecstasy,
     the various meanings of infinity.
     Do you know, he asked, that there are infinities of

     And she said,
Yes, I know.    
A fellow named    
Ferdinand Ludwig Phillip    
Cantor (1845-1918)    
a German mathematician,    
inventor of the arithmetic of    
No relation to Eddie.    


     She covered it with her fingertips touching,
     making a roof with her hands,
     and said,
This will be my temple.    


     He said, Yes,
     the Temple of Aleph and Bet.
     The set of all the whole numbers constitutes an infinite set.
     Cantor wrote this as Aleph-sub-zero,
     calling it (the set of All)


Oh, that is good, good, keep it going just like that,    
ah, ahh, ahhh....    

     All right, so then we take all possible sets of the collection....

Yes, yes, the infinite number of collections-- actually    
two raised to the Alpha-null power-- whereby we    
have the first transfinite infinity    
I love it I love it never let it stop oh good good     
ah... ahh... ahhh...    

     Continuing the process...
Yes, yes yes, to Aleph-infinity.    

     And then if one can imagine such a thing,
          collecting all the sets in Aleph-infinity...

Bet-null! Aleph and Bet, the Temple    

     And, as before....
The process,    
Yes, yes, the PROCESS as beFORE! YES! YES!    
BET-- in-- FIN-- I-- teeEEE-- eee-- e.    

     five.... four...


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