I first became acquainted with Kenneth Koch (1925-2002) through his small and hugely valuable paperback of teaching strategies, Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry. Later, searching for poems about trains, I stumbled upon "One Train May Hide Another" -- which I return to again and again for its wise beauty. Today I present, for our reflection, Koch's poem, "The Magic of Numbers." Enjoy.
The Magic of Numbers by Kenneth Koch
The Magic of Numbers—1
How strange it was to hear the furniture being moved around in the apartment upstairs!
I was twenty-six, and you were twenty-two.
The Magic of Numbers—2
You asked me if I wanted to run, but I said no and walked on.
I was nineteen, and you were seven.
The Magic of Numbers—3
Yes, but does X really like us?
We were both twenty-seven.
The Magic of Numbers—4
You look like Jerry Lewis (1950).
The Magic of Numbers—5
Grandfather and grandmother want you to go over to their house for dinner.
They were sixty-nine, and I was two and a half.
The Magic of Numbers—6
One day when I was twenty-nine years old I met you and nothing happened.
The Magic of Numbers—7
No, of course it wasn’t I who came to the library!
Brown eyes, flushed cheeks, brown hair. I was twenty-nine, and you were sixteen.
The Magic of Numbers—8
After we made love one night in Rockport I went outside and kissed the road
I felt so carried away. I was twenty-three, and you were nineteen.
The Magic of Numbers—9
I was twenty-nine, and so were you. We had a very passionate time.
Everything I read turned into a story about you and me, and everything I did was turned into a poem.
Kenneth Koch, “The Magic of Numbers” from The Collected Poems of Kenneth Koch, (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 2006).