Thursday, March 8, 2012



In high school math, we learned
that there is something called
an imaginary number. I eyeballed
the lower-case i on the board, turned

it into a 1 by squinting. Aren’t all
numbers imaginary, like any marks
we scuff slates with. We know sharks
by one piece of their bodies, a small

fin poking through the ocean like a tooth.
A thing is real if you can touch it or
use it in a sentence or draw it for
your fridge. You can calculate truth,

math says. Type 58008 into your TI-83.
Turn it upside down for your friend to see.


  1. A sonnet (sort of) about boobs (kind of). The real and the true are always subject to some wizardry.

  2. Love it. I remember being fascinated by imaginary numbers, too....

  3. i love the dialogue between form and subject. of course, all numbers are imaginary, and the dirty details of the real world never quite conform to their shining, abstract order -- just as "the sonnet" is imaginary, an equally abstract order that the messy, sweet details of living language never exactly meet and fill. how beautifully this is exemplified in the discovery of boobs in a context that might have seemed sterile and lifeless (and isn't the poem also about the birth of erotic life in an environment that tries helplessly to repress it?)

    physicists these days talk of "imaginary time," time mapped along the axis of imaginary numbers ... stephen hawking, for instance, says time travel is impossible in the world of ordinary, consensus time, but quite possible in imaginary time :-)

  4. James, wow. I'll have to visit you. I saw the sonnet, but not the rest.

    It's always interested me that we so often see and use rhyme for satire or humor in general these days. I guess a century or more of free verse will do that . . .

  5. Another unexpected one....I remember coming to imaginary numbers and I am trying to think what crossed my mind...perhaps I was surprised by allowing abstract mingle with the concrete...I love math, especially abstract math... I recommend that this poem be included in the math book in the section concerning imaginary numbers...I hope someone is listening to my suggestions. : )

  6. i want to laugh and be crude but i feel unwittingly as though i've been placed inside of a church more holy than any christian establishment, the church of what is real. under me is a pew or a tree or my legs or only belief.

    so damned clever - you.



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