The Scariest Stanza in All of Poetry


Numerous number systems beyond the real:
complex numbers, octonions, omnions which can eat whole black holes.
It’s axiomatic that your personal history, preferences, how you feel
account for nothing at all.

$30 buys a flock of chickens for a needy family (International Rescue Committee)
$29 gets a girl a school uniform (CARE), for $300 you can stock a fish pond (Heifer International)
$69 can start a female entrepreneur in the sewing business (Mercy Corps)
$5 will buy a bed net that protects a family from mosquitoes (Against Malaria)

20th century experiments demonstrated that electrical charge is quantized; that is, it comes in
multiples of individual small units called the elementary charge, e, approximately equal to 1.602
x 10-19 coulombs (except for particles called quarks which have charges that are multiples of
1/3e).

Why has the experimentalism of the avant-garde, which has failed in the novel, succeeded in
poetry? Because poetry is always experimental; while the novel, on the contrary, by its nature,
cannot be . . . which is to say that experimentalism is synonymous with poetry, and that applied
to the novel, it leads simply to the substitution of the novel with poetry. –Alberto Moravia

Man made the town, Fibonacci inflated zero to be the wheel
around which the universe turns and language is the soul
walking and talking quietly or going angrily to war.
“Counting is in its very essence magical, if any human practice is at all. For numbers are things no one
      has ever seen or heard or touched.” As are words.

Joan Didion thought the scariest stanza in all of poetry
begins Row, row, row your boat gently
down the stream. The elements, the material penumbra,
irresolvable for the mortal, readily dissolve in words and numbers.


Copyright 2013 by Robert Ronnow. Acknowledgements.