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).