Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Taking Stock

Developing an inventory -- of what we have or have experienced, of what we see or imagine -- inevitably involves numbers and counting.  As in "Inventory" by Canadian poet Colin Morton, an adaptation or "free translation" of  "Inventaire" by Jacques Prevert.  Morton has a strong connection to mathematics --  his son is a mathematician at the Technical University of Lisbon.

  Inventory       by Colin Morton

  one lump of rock
  two houses
  three ruined foundations
  four gravediggers
  one garden
  some flowers

  one beaver
  one dozen oysters one beetle one loaf of bread 
  one hour of sunshine
  one volcano
  four horsemen

  one door with doormat
  one man waving his purple heart

  another beaver
  one sculptor with a welding torch
  one maple leaf
  two lovers on a large bed
  one canvasser one chair three Christmas turkeys 

  one cabinet minister one carbuncle
  one wasp
  one kidney stone
  one racing form
  one hippie two nuns three grasshoppers two of the neighbour's 

  one whalebone corset
  one Queen Anne chair

  one shilling (George the second) two shillings (George the third)
  three shillings (George the fourth)
  one illegible penny
  one ball of string two safety pins one elderly gentleman
  one winged victory one accountant one man of the world
  two surgeons three vegetarians

  one cannibal

  one colonial expedition both ends of a horse an ounce of prevention
  one tse tse fly
  one surf 'n' turf
  one Japanese garden
  one Macintosh apple
  one monocle one mountie one orphan one iron lung
  one day of glory
  one week of happiness
  one month of Diana
  one terrible year

  two minutes of silence
  one second's inattention and ...

  five or six beavers

  one little boy who goes to school crying
  one little boy who leaves school laughing
  one ant
  two arrowheads
  seventeen bison one judge on vacation sitting on the accused
  one landscape with a lot of green in it
  one cow
  one bull
  two loves of the century three grand pianos one veal cutlet
  one Waterloo sun
  one seltzer bottle
  one cheap rose
  one tom thumb one phony excuse one statue of liberty one rope

  two sisters of mercy three dimensions twelve apostles a thousand
  and one nights thirty-two
       positions five cardinal points six corners of the world
       seven deadly sins a few hectares of snow two fingers of
       one hand ten drops with each meal thirty days in
       detention fifteen in solitary five minutes intermission
  and ...

  some more dam beavers

Additional poems by Morton are found at this site.  Additional poems by writers with mathematicians in-the-family may be found in postings for 20 July 2010 and 12 February 2011.

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