## Tuesday, February 18, 2014

### Wartime recurrence

In mathematics, it is not unusual to define an entity using a recurrence relation.
For example, in defining powers of a positive integer:
The 2nd power of  7  may be defined as  7  x  71 ;
the 3rd power of  7  may be defined as  7  times  72
and the 4th power is  7  times  73,
and, in general, for any positive integer n,  7n+1  =  7  x  7n

Several weeks ago I attended a reading of fine poetry here in Silver Spring at the Nora School  -- a reading that featured DC-area poets Judith Bowles, Luther Jett, and David McAleavey.  I was delighted to hear in "Recessional" -- one of the poems presented that evening by Jett -- the mathematical pattern of recurrence, building stepwise  with a potentially infinite number of steps (as with the powers of 7, above) into a powerful poem.  I include it below:

Recessional

A man is writing a poem
on a very dark night
in a time of war
as planes fly over his head.

He intends it to be a sonnet
but the meter isn't right,
and keeps writing.

And as he writes, he becomes
conscious of another man
who is also writing a poem
in the middle of a war-torn night.

And with an awareness verging
on vertigo, he realizes
that the poem the other man

Indeed, it is about him writing
poetry on a dark night,
and how he--the first man--
is a poem inside another poem.

And the man writing about him
is also a poem, being
written by a third man
on a dark night in wartime.

And it becomes clear--
as clear as things can become
in times of war--that the third
man is also a poem.

The third man is a poem
being written by a fourth man,
and there are poems within poems,
an infinite recessional.

All these poems, being written
by men who are, themselves,
poems within poems
being written by other men.

And this is when the first man
understands that if he is a poem
within a poem within a poem,
then it is all one poem.

One poem with infinite verses
being written with infinite hands
on infinite nights in a time
of infinite war.

And with a clarity that is
only possible when one realizes
that one is a poem inside
a poem the man begins to write:

“A man is writing a poem
on a very dark night
in a time of war
as planes fly over his head ....”

This poem by Marylander W. Luther Jett first appeared in The Wartime Issue (Spring 2006)  of Beltway Poetry, a quarterly online journal edited by Kim Roberts.