Monday, May 18, 2020

Doubling and redoubling . ..

     The mathematics of repeated doubling and concerns about COVID-19 have led Virginia dentist and poet Eric Forsbergh to write "A Fable" (offered below): 

     Fable     by Eric Forsbergh

     A child seeks the raja out.

     A grain of rice is held out on the child’s fingertip.
     The child seeks to live, someday to reproduce.

     “I ask this. One grain doubled,
     doubled again, on a chessboard every square.”
     The raja’s not alarmed.
     He sends a soldier out to get a loaded scoop.
     “Maybe a small pail.” he calls out as an afterthought.

     The seers concur the sky tomorrow
     will be laced with blood.
     Morning or evening? On that they disagree.

     The child adds the grains, which overflow.
     Then switches to an abacus, but it runs out of breath.
     The stateroom doors stand swollen open soon enough.

     The child calculates the toll. “How much,” you ask.
     “A grain of rice weighs but the sliver of a gram.”
     The child exacts five times the weight of
     every living plant and animal on earth.

     The child mutates into a cloud of mist:
     just a sneeze.

     Each day, a doubled swarm
     may grout your breath until you suffocate.

     The raja counts his harvest months,
     his armies, and his confidantes.
     How many buried is a later count.

     I first met Forsbergh back in 2018 when both of us had poems chosen for display on Arlington buses -- and his poem of math and DNA is posted here This link to a prior Earth Day posting offers a poem of mine that also considers the consequences of doubling.

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