The Goose Bath Poems

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?

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About Linda

I have been involved in secondary mathematics education in Victoria, Australia for over 25 years.
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