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Posts Tagged ‘math’

 

 

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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the math teacher walked through the door
and went straight to the empty blackboard.
He did not say a word, did not look
at the class. He drew a perfect circle.
Then with his back to our eyes,
he began to write the proof for the area
of a circle. His chalk clicked against the emptiness,
filling the space with points x and y and
cos and sin and theta and n and limits and infinity.
The room was cold. The proof was brief
and elegant. He stood back and crossed his arms
over his chest as he stared at the work.
That, he said in a voice both humbled and grand,
is more beautiful than any poem ever written.
Though I could not feel any warmth for the proof,
nor for the man who averted our gaze, I did admire
his reverence, and drew in my notebook
an imperfect circle more like the shape of a peach—
something sweet and golden and soft,
its juice about to spill across the page.

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Look out the kitchen window
into the night, and all you see through the pane
is a vague version of yourself,
not quite transparent,
but substanceless.
Perhaps car lights pass
through the shape of your head.
And then it is just your reflection
imprinted on darkness again.

*

I wanted to write you a letter
about the dream I had last night.
We were talking on the phone.
This is how I knew it was a dream.

*

A chained male dog
will strain his leash
when he can smell
a bitch in heat.

*

Try to listen beyond the window.
Beyond the refrigerator hum.
Beyond the sound
of your own breathing in, breathing out.

*

There was a necklace in the dream,
a strand of green diamonds,
one I lost long ago.
There it was in my hands again,
and I thought to myself,
as I balanced it in an armful of things,
you are going to lose it again.

*

What do you hear?

*

One can measure it,
the dog’s desire,
by the force of his tug,
the direction of his pull.
In modern mathematics,
in the language of dynamics,
we call this an attractor,
a purpose or motive that connects us
with our virtual future.

*

The point: it is not
the past that drives us.
Not even the greatest loss.
We are pulled toward that
which has not yet happened.
The future yearns for us.

*

The phone rings,
the plot thickens.
The woman in the window
reaches toward the receiver.
The voice on the other end
is not yours.

*

You have prepared
your whole life for this moment,
the one you let go
right now.

*

Machines do not have internal purpose.
The typewriter writes what the poet types.
The car goes where the driver goes.
The refrigerator chills what is put inside.
But everything that is alive
is pulled toward certain attractors
that help with growth, survival,
continuation of the species.
The honey bee moves to the flower.
The mud wasp digs a funneled nest.
The black widow spiders will eat
the other offspring in the sac.
So who could explain why,
though a letter will never arrive at your door,
I watch as the woman in the window
takes out her pen, consider how much
she must long to write you a letter,
watch her as she stares
at her empty page.

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