Posts Tagged ‘math’


   Tonight, instead of serving pie,
 I serve the memory of pie—
    serve the memory of pumpkins
 we grew in the garden
     then processed into custard.
         Serve the memory of years
  we made gluten-free crusts.
      Serve the memory of your rhubarb plant
     that will rise more robust this spring,
   memory of thinly sliced apples,
     key limes, lemon merengue,
        and all those tart cherries
         we harvested together.
       I serve the joy we shared
         in celebrating a constant
   necessary to the geometry of the world.
  I serve the thrill in knowing
   there is something
        both transcendental and infinite,
    something death can never touch,
      something ubiquitous that defines
  the world we inhabit.
      And though it is math,
    it is no less love,
   something that helps us
   understand our universe,
        something that hints
   at the grand design
  that amidst great catastrophe
       continues to hold it all together.

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And there on the statement,
between the hardware store expense
and the do-it-yourself car wash,
was the charge
for Henderson and Sons Funeral Home.
How to reconcile this tide of loss?
Nowhere in my books
is a column for devastation.
No account for anguish,
for the loss of a slender young man
who loved ice cream
and cherries and helped me
roast pumpkins for pie.
There’s no way this number
on the statement can equate
to the boy who threw rocks in the river,
who snuggled with me
on the couch before school,
who built cars out of cardboard
and shish kebob sticks.
I can’t make it equal the seventeen years
we swam and hiked and baked
and sang—nor the years
he wept and raged and ached,
those years I learned how to pray.
In these unmoored days,
when I am more driftwood than boat,
I float through the churning wreckage of hope
and beg myself, stay open.
I lack the callous math
for such reconciliations.
I sob into the columns,
and the heart takes the lead—
it knows nothing of counting, of sums.
It knows only to love, to love.

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inspired by Wayne Muller

I do not love you in 0s and 1s,

some straightforward proposition—

our love, my dear, is gray, is .772,

refuses to be simplified, reduced.

There is maybe in us. And perhaps.

Wouldn’t it be easier if love were like math—

a logical answer we could arrive at,

with binary digits to map it all out.

Instead, a word, a tone, a should

makes what is certain slip off its string

and the bits and values keep changing.

Somewhere between the 0 and 1

is a meadow where we might watch the moon,

a garden where outlandish fruits still grow,

a mountain we will never stop climbing.

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Eadem mutata resurgo

Latin motto: Changed, I rise again



Sometimes in spring

I can still find the dried seeds

of the mountain mahogany

clinging to the ends

of the branches—

feathery golden spirals,

logarithmic and light.


How the universe

loves a pattern,

an elegant mathematics—

this same spiral is found

in spider webs, sunflowers,

snail shells, cyclones, the arms

of galaxies, the human ear,

even in the nerves of my cornea


that help me to see

the very pattern that

gives me the ability to see.

I want to find the self-similar spiral curve

that informs kindness and strength

as it spreads through a people. I want

to find the equation that calculates

an exponentially growing radius of love.

I want to find the dynamic beauty in us


that amplifies as it moves out

with ever increasing speed

from the infinite center.

I want to embody the trustworthy constant

that inspires our species to be better,

want to know the recursive courage that drives us

to thrive in difficult times.

Our potential, endless, yet humble

as last year’s seed in my hand, ready

to be planted, to sprout, to grow.


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One Innovation


you call that a line?

said the skeptic

to the curve

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Hi friends,


the poem from a few days ago about the Voyager 2 leaving our heliosphere, “By the Numbers,” was accepted last night by Rattle.com for their series Poets Respond, poems about the news. Here is a link to the text and audio!


By the Numbers, Rattle

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One on the Floor




math homework

crumpled and tossed—

one student subtracts herself

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Odd joy in the pink eraser rubbings,

joy in the silence just after the timer says start,

joy in the turning of the inner cogs

and the way that the numbers

sprint across the page,

joy in the scratch of the pencil, the stumble

of confidence, in the scrapping of the route

so that a new route can emerge,

joy in arriving at an answer,

an answer so certain you can label it

with units and circle it and know

that tomorrow it would turn out

the same way again, not like any

other part of your life.

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Story Problem




If I were paddling a green canoe

traveling a rate of x miles

per hour and you were

in a blue canoe traveling

at a rate of y miles per hour,

and the rate of the stream

was a given, which already

we know is a lie,

how hard would I need

to paddle, in which force equals

d, to make the canoe

a field of rye where we are

wading through golden

waist-high grass

and no longer traveling

in separate canoes?


And let’s say the field

had a breeze travelling

from the west at p miles per hour,

then if I tossed you a dream

and you were standing

due east of me, how long

would it take the dream

to reach you? I know,

not enough facts, and

I have included too many

irrelevant details,

though we both know they’re essential.

This is why math is only good

for certain kinds of problems.

Of course the field was golden.

Though I wouldn’t mind

if it were green, if there

were blue flax flowers

bobbing in the breeze,

a whole river of them

nodding at us as if to say,

yes, that’s right, it doesn’t

make sense, that’s okay,

that’s okay.

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It always seems as if it should add up,
except it doesn’t. Not like the story problems
did in school. No. In this equation, x
represents the rate at which sweet peas
climb an orchard’s wire fence, and y
is the speed that snowflakes fall without
accounting for wind. And z is the reason
that all those snowflakes never seem to find
your waiting tongue. Don’t take it personally. It’s statistics.
Then s is the way that the low light at sunrise
makes every other variable shine. Which changes
everything. Until f is the sloth-like velocity
of a deeply held sorrow just starting to mend. And g
is the relative effect of one extended open hand.
And h is a pair of seahorses with their tails
intertwined. Or maybe it’s a flock of seagulls
returning to the land. Or maybe it’s crazy
to try to assign meaning to any of this.
It seems obvious. The heart just wants to love.
But then y is the hole the size of Saturn that
you sometimes feel ringing inside your gut.
And g is the swan-like gracefulness
you thought you’d have once you grew up.
But d is the way you are more like a squirrel.
And j is the value of a sand dollar saved
for twenty years. And p is the sweet scent
of strawberries, ripe. And k is the surfboard
you never bought. And o is the way you often feel
like a sidewinder—edging slyly, slantly along.
You dream of straight lines, of answers that work out
neatly, efficiently, sure of themselves. But already,
x is a starfish, and y is just a homophone, and t is
the way you see yourself sometimes, scribbling away
as if it’s all some kind of test. And s is the sweet compassion
you offer yourself, even now as you watch yourself draw up
a new proof, determined to solve it right this time.

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