Friday, May 11, 2018

Math gems -- in the imagery of poems

     Much of mathematical terminology is of the flexible sort that can create vivid and interesting images in poetry -- and many poets embed jewels of mathematics here and there in their work.  Whenever I am with a group of poets it almost always turns out that at least one has poems that feature math terms and ideas.  For example, Allyson Lima, a Montgomery College faculty member whom I met at a recent Silver Spring, MD meeting of DC-area translators, shared with me her poem "Turn" -- offered below.  At a recent Takoma Park (MD) Community Center Poetry Reading I met retired attorney Richard Lorr and he has shared with me his poem, "Sweet Crumbs."   At an Arlington, VA reading of prize-winning poems to appear on busses, I met dentist Eric Forsbergh and learned of his poem about DNA-Testing, "Police will Swab Your Cheek."    PLEASE, scroll down, read, Enjoy! 
Turn     by Allyson Lima

The fact of rotting leaves
and hardened blackberries.
Open and without sides I empty
into spaces folding back and back
all touching breaking apart
clusters of berries on branches
infinite seeds making and remaking
mysterious math of numbered days.

                Sweet crumbs     by Richard Lorr
                The mathematician stood by the door,
                Eating cake.  Under the chair
                Catching the falling crumbs,
                Adding them to his collection, the
                Dog refuses to divide them with his
                Doggie friends, counting on them to
                Understand the root of his
                Exponential pleasure. Some do.

     Police Will Swab Your Cheek    by Eric Forsbergh

     You: encyclopedia of binaries.
     Off-On.     On-Off.     Zero-One.    Collected,

     your DNA surrenders to the gauntlet. On.
     Off. How many couples made a you?

     Thymine-Adenine. Cytosine-Guanine.
     Guanine-Cytosine. Adenine-Thymine.

     Three billion of these base pairs ladder up identity.
     In cloud banks of windowless buildings

     you’re shelved like patterned wallpaper.
     Endless rolls repeat off on: enough slight

     variation to excise you from your tribe. Off. On.
     Police will say all choice is binary, so during

     a street demonstration, your image gets combed out.
     On off blizzards of pixels cull your face from the

     anthem crowd. Bent,
                                              you clutch your head
     to stanch another gauntlet. Truncheons

     economize interrogation. Confession is relief
     for everyone. Truth. Lie. On. Off. Binary,

     you cried at birth. A swarm of four base pairs
     jostle into line along a billions loaded spool
     composing you: musical chairs more so than
     music of the spheres, it circling from the time

     of Socrates. He too thought at tangent to authority.
     Calm or not, he drank the state’s solution.

                 your ears ring in a spinning orbit slowed by
     thrust-out hands grabbing for the walls. Struck.

     Blackness yanks a sack on your head.
     Off, your carcass bounces once against cement.

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