Thursday, March 14, 2013

Number gives things a body . . .

Poet Stephanie Strickland majored in mathematics as an undergraduate and she uses mathematical imagery freely in her work  -- in a career that has included pioneering leadership in creating and understanding electronic literature.  The following paper-and-ink poem, "Numberbody," is part of a collection that celebrates and illuminates the French philosopher Simone Weil.

     Numberbody     by Stephanie Strickland

     The world stained to the bone raven blue
     with mathematics as an embryo 

     is stained clear through with amniotic
     fluid.  Number does not give things

     a form.  It gives them a body
     and makes them understandable--the way

     a gnomon makes understandable
     eddying of shadow:  a sun-dial's witness.

     Walk around.  Experience
     successive appearances produced by the Sun.

     By this operation only will you know
     what is real:  Invariant:  the field

     that governs the carnations.  Deep stain
     --if we feel it--reminds us

     of amniotic fluid.  We are all
     obedient:  constrained.  Necessarily.

     But some--Simone--
     are consciously obedient,

     feeling the absence
     like a phantom heart or limb.

From The Red Virgin:  A Poem of Simone Weil, (University of Wisconsin Press, 1993).  Dates of this blog's previous postings of Strickland's work include:  6 July 2010 and 6 February 2011.

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