Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dimensions of a soul

In the poem below, Young Smith uses carefully precise terms of Euclidean geometry to create a vivid interior portrait.

     She Considers the Dimensions of Her Soul   by Young Smith

     The shape of her soul is a square.
     She knows this to be the case
     because she often feels its corners
     pressing sharp against the bone
     just under her shoulder blades
     and across the wings of her hips. 
     At one time, when she was younger,
     she had hoped that it might be a cube,
     but the years have worked to dispel
     this illusion of space, so that now
     she understands:  it is a simple plane,
     a shape with surface, but no volume-
     a window without a building, an eye
     without a mind.
                             Of course, this square
     does not appear on x-rays, and often,
     weeks may pass when she forgets
     that it exists.  When she does think
     to consider its purpose in her life,
     she can say only that it aches with
     a single mystery, for whose answer
     she has long ago given up the search-
     since its question is a word whose name
     can never quite be asked.  This yearning,
     she has concluded, is the only function
     of the square, repeated again and again
     in each of its four matching angles,
     until, with time, she is persuaded
     anew that what it frames has no
     interest in ever making her happy.

Young Smith is a core faculty member of the Bluegrass Writers Studio, a low-residency MFA Program at Eastern Kentucky University.  This poem is found in the anthology Strange Attractors:  Poems of Love and Mathematics (A K Peters, 2008), a collection that I co-edited with University of Connecticut mathematician-poet, Sarah Glaz; it first appeared in POETRY  (July 2003). 

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