Saturday, January 22, 2011

Integrals -- a poem

Integrals    by Jonathan Holden

     Erect, arched in disdain,
the integrals drift from left
across white windless pages
to the right,
serene as swans. 
beautiful seen from afar
on the wavering water, each
curves with the balanced severity
of a fine tool weighed in the palm.
     Gaining energy now, they
break into a canter--stallions
bobbing the great crests of their manes.
No one suspects their power
who has not seen them rampage.
                       Like bulldozers, they build
by adding
              dirt to dirt to stumps added
              to boulders to broken glass added
              to live trees by the roots added
to hillsides, to whole
housing developments
                       that roll, foaming before them,
the tumbling end of a broken wave
in one mangled sum: dandelions, old
beer-cans and broken
windows--gravestones all
rolled into one.
     Yes, with the use of tables
integration is as easy as that:
the mere squeeze of a trigger, no
second thought. The swans
cannot feel the pain
it happens so fast.

"Integrals" is found in Jonathan Holden's essay "Poetry and Mathematics" in The Measured Word:  On Poetry snd Science" (ed. Kurt Brown, UGA Press, 2001).  Holden was the first Poet-Laureate of Kansas (2005) and is a distinguished professor and poet-in-residence at Kansas State University.  Two of his poems ("Sex and Mathematics" and "The Departure of an Alphabet") are collected in the anthology, Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (Eds Glaz, Growney, A K Peters, 2008).

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