Picked up a copy of Janet Frame’s The Goose Bath Poems last weekend.
Apart from the invitational poem: I take into my arms more than I can bear to hold (doesn’t that pull at my experience?), there is one titled Words that contains the following:
Arithmetic is always bath-time:
clean, competent, neatly arranging numbers,
no danger from one burdened tower of addition
to its neighbour; no carry-over;
no numb loss in subtraction
fallout from explosive multiplication;
in the face of division
no fear of diminishing possession
Numbers are a confession
of calculating patterns
a pure telling.
Come clean, God said. You cardinals and ordinals
from the first to the last day.
Hungry among words? Eat between the syllables.
Sleep in two-roomed S
bed upon a hyphen.
A minus sign will not do
having no overlapping involvement
with one and one and two.
In numbers, highways of speed,
the going is good
the subtracted have always been dead.
In words, slow roots of darkness and loss
grow to catch the world in a searchlight
and in the bereaved night the moon
leaning wild with cloud
sweeping up into the sea into her face
Words are messy, complex things. Mathematics is clean and pure. Is the dichotomy a true telling?