From Seattle poet Kathleen Flenniken, a sensitive application of the normal distribution to the population of participants in an elementary school recorder recital:
The Beauty of the Curve by Kathleen Flenniken
The curtain lifts on Bryant Elementary School's
Spring Recorder Recital. Ninety third-graders
fumble with their instruments, take a breath
and blow. Their parents, braced, breathe too
as "Hot Crossed Buns" emerges, a little scattershot --
the Normal Distribution brought to life.
By "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie," the audience
is moved by their sheer pretty-goodness,
though one kid knocks her music to the floor
and another squeaks to demonstrate
the tail below two standard deviations
below the mean. The curve inplies
that somewhere on stage another kid
just played a note so sweet he might shatter
Mrs. Wedermeyer's glasses. And if
there are a mother and father who think
that child is theirs, may they be forgiven,
even if the child shining in their eyes
is moving his fingers slightly out of rhythm,
even if he's never led the bell curve in his life.
In consecutive measures of almost unison
it's easy to believe these children are musicians.
Their parents do, so stirred by "Ode to Joy"
they rise to their feet with the final phrase,
clapping from the darkened auditorium
at once, as one, heroically, like the parents
they've meant to be.
"The Beauty of the Curve" is found in Flenniken's collection, Famous (University of Nebraska, 2006) -- winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry .