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Division by zero

The November 2011 issue of the Scottish ezine, *The Bottle Imp*, is just out and it includes my review of poet Brian McCabe's *Zero* (Polygon, 2009). To stir your interest, I include a few lines from McCabe's title poem (which chronicles the irregular history of zero) -- and then offer a human interpretation of division by zero in a poem by Ann McNeal.
from "

**Zero**"

by Brian McCabe
Even when it came into its own
in *The Opening of the Universe*
and Bramagupta wrote
a debt minus zero is a debt,
a fortune minus zero is a fortune,
it confounded him still:
zero divided by zero is zero.
Perhaps it will outlive us at last:
implacable, inscrutable to the end.
While division of any nonzero number by itself yields 1, in modern mathematics we differ from Bramagupta's view; **zero divided by zero** is said to be *indeterminate *-- that is (applying the definition of division, expresed in terms of multiplication) the quotient of zero divided by zero might be any number at all.
Blogger Ann McNeal is an emerita professor of physiology. I found her poem about zero, "Higher Mathematics," in the collection, *Love Over 60: an anthology of women's poems** *(Mayapple Press, 2010)*;* it appeared first in *Paper Street*.
** Higher Mathematics** by Ann McNeal
* You can't do that*, Miss Sharp said
from her place by the blackboard.
* Six divided by zero has no answer.*
* Write the word* Impossible.
When a number is divided by itself,
the answer is one. When a woman
is divided by her fantasies,
by ambition, unswept floors,
family, highways,
meetings, bedsheets,
the answer is unknowable.

If any number is divided by one,
the answer is herself, feet
on the ground, knowingness,
porcupines, potatoes.
Dividing by zero is not the problem.
When someone is divided by zero,
the answer is gloriously infinity,
one number after another up past
a trillion, always more.
So the woman, who is not divided
now by children, obligations,
anyone else's dirty dishes --
a woman divided by nothng
but herself is whole.
Another poem on dividing by zero may be found in my posting for 10 February 2011 -- and a variety of other postings also have poems of **zero**. These may be found using the **SEARCH THIS SITE** link located in the bottom border of this blog.
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