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Sunday, September 27, 2015


"Art is fire plus algebra."  ~Jorge Luis Borges

Geometry is not true, it is advantageous.  ~Poincare
Mathematics is the art of giving the same name to different things. ~Henri Poincare

Confessions of a Music Box                          Bruce Bond

No larger than a bird coffin,
the kind that opens its one wing
onto a sky it cannot take to,

save as the thin and silver trickle
of a tune, a feather fanning
the ghost goodbye, as if to say, yes,

it’s true, how the ancients saw it,
that music is the sound numbers
make on the verge of extinction

or sleep, whatever comes first,
that it sends its arrows through
the ear’s window, clean through and yet

attached, brightening the glass.
That’s why a monk I read loved
music, not merely for the holy

signatures, the geometry
of tones that are its body, but how
that body dies again and again,

how it slips its box like steam, like gold.
Ask any star in the Greek
toy chest of stars, any sphere,

and it returns you to an image
of this, to the singing of a thing
you wind, or someone winds, the grind

of a song it never tires of.
A lullaby. How like a box
to hoard its measure of nothing

we speak of until, that is, the box
of dark inside breaks, confessing
the way an old grief confesses

or some nocturnal heating vent
pouring air between its teeth.
But then... if you call this news,

it is never news enough.
Only paired phrases like a doll
house on fire, like the small

murmur of a child at her bed,
talking to a god she has only
heard of, a father locked up in

the rhymes of parables, of hymns:
and if I die before I wake.
Either way she dies, she wakes.

The Prophecies of Mathematics                  Gary Fincke

Not even his wife wanted to listen
To Francis Galton explain that prayer made
No difference, that insurance companies
Knew the facts of longevity, and there
Was no adjustment for people who prayed
And the various buildings they lived in.
Not even, but he said it anyway—
The pious live no longer than the bad.
It's always this way with Jeremiahs.
In the prophecies of mathematics
Are equations for hours in the sun,
Alcohol in the blood, early marriage.
There, among the numbers, lies the total
Of the truth of ourselves, and I admit
I've counted the daily steps from my house
To my office through six possible routes;
I've counted the frequency of letters,
Rooting for underdogs like b and k
To outdo their predicted sums of use.

Trivial? Stupid? I estimated
The minutes, once, until the end of school,
Wrote seventy-five thousand, six hundred,
In my September notebook and followed
The lurch of each long minute on the clock
For three periods of world history,
Latin, and plane geometry until
I rejoined the classroom of common sense,
Abandoning the women who number
The knocks on a door to seven, the breaths
Before starting their cars to six, knowing
Nothing about the habits of Galton,
Who kept track of boredom by numbering
The small fidgets of a congregation,
Who counted the brush strokes as his portrait
Was painted, who evaluated place,
At last, by the beauty of its women,
Selecting London like a pageant judge,
Leaving it to us to tally the days
Till what's longed for mayor may not arrive,
Keeping calendars of Xs that end,
Each time, on the eve of possible joy
Like a merciless cliffhanger for faith.


All one's inventions are true, you can be sure of that. Poetry is as exact a science as geometry.  ~Gustav Flaubert


There is still a difference between something and nothing, but it is purely geometrical and there is nothing behind the geometry. 



When we were the poorest,
mom paid my weekly allowance
in birds. That one is yours, she whispered

so as not to disturb it.
If you clean the oven
I’ll give you that red one.

In a few months
I owned all the birds on the street,
blue jays, finches, a lame owl

cowled in the clock tower.
We had to walk farther each Saturday
to find a new fountain or thicket

so mother could pay me what she owed.
We stood on a bridge.
Our soldiers were marching away,

and trying to sound brave.
Their numbers were staggering.

I invented a
to understand them.
I subtracted them from summer

and it was winter. Most of our houses
were gone, and the birds too.
The university had been bombed

with my father inside, attending a reading
by some Polish poets.
The poems were so sturdy, he said,

they held up the dome of the ceiling.

“I know that I have an instinct towards math and cleverness in structure that I work against, and so I try to make something … I make this whole structure which takes up a cork wall of index cards, and then I feel that is the architecture of the book, and what you do with architecture is that you cover it completely . . . And why I am driven to make something this complicated I don’t know. It’s just a pleasure for me always in all kinds of reading and fiction to know that there is some kind of clock ticking in the background. It could be rhetorical device, the way that language goes in the book. That there’s a pattern to it, because it’s nice to feel when you close the book that there’s a pattern to life.” 

~Andrew Sean Greer in an interview with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW’s Bookworm 

37. Poetry is a mystic, sensuous mathematics of fire, smoke-stacks, waffles, pansies, people, and purple sunsets.
from DEFINITIONS OF POETRY by Carl Sandburg


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