Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Caught in an infinite loop . . ..

Philadelphian Marion Cohen has been a mathematician since girlhood and a poet almost that long.  Besides her mathematics and writing, she teaches an interdisciplinary math-and-literature course at Arcadia University.  Here is a sample of Cohen's math poetry -- which imaginatively links mathematics to everyday life, sort of -- from her recent collection, Parables for a Rainy Day (Green Fuse Press, 2013).

Weirdness at 22nd and Walnut     by Marion D. Cohen    

Her light was green but the cross light wasn't red.
She stands there aghast.  She stands there afraid.

Then her light turns red and so does the cross light. 
That's too quiet.  She continues to stand.

Next she's staring at two green lights.
Identical twins.  A seesaw 
with both ends up.

Eventually she gets used to it.
She'll be there always
trapped in this infinite loop between Type I and Type II errors
two blocks from home.
Two blocks from family
looking both ways
looking all ways 
more and more mindlessly waiting for a true green
or at least a true red.

And here is another provocative Cohen poem -- this one about identity:

The Plight of Anyone Who Gets Ideas     by Marion D. Cohen

For y not equal to x, y can give x a surprise party.  Or review x's books.  Or send x the uniquely appropriate greeting card.

Too bad x just happens to be x.
Of all the quantities x could be.

But x could pretend to be a y.
Or x could appoint a y.
x could forget who or what it is.

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