Thursday, January 7, 2016

Poem from residency at Newton Institute for Mathematics in Cambridge

Surreal Möbius Elegy

Surreal numbers locate the real
global curve assigned to the shelf
for forty years to be lifted wholesale
by Einstein for his general theory
of relativity, his lights deflecting
off the rippling band of a mountain
lake, two sides to one story — band-
wagon I want to share with the lost,
with the obsessive of a pure discipline
who were laughed at, their theories
consigned to dark shelves; to locate
paths any error offers, to find a living
Minerva in plain song, the common
tongue — no display of dead wings.

Earlier, before this conversation, I had
been laughing over long-past and slightly
painful memories of a shake-the-foundations
poet, an American in Paris, an American
poet rowdy and disruptive around
ancient buildings he seemed to love —
a boat colliding with all other boats
on the narrow waters, resetting the word —
to be told he might in fact now be dead.
I changed tone and tact and turned one-
hundred-and-eighty degrees to reconnect.

I am shocked to find that he’s been
dead for months. Day turned end-to-end.
A ‘one-sided nonorientable surface’ —
endurance where the easier band
fails. And not having thought of this
poet for some time, the idea of him
had already manifested in yet an earlier
conversation with another party
earlier today. In this six-coloured life
I have painted myself out of focus.

Cold is finally coming, it’s said.
Encircled by surreals, I feel close,
so close, too close. And I saw
a bloodied bird’s wing on a path.
And I looked for words instead
            of numbers.

           John Kinsella

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