July 04, 2017


I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else's
garden now.

There's an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.

And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.

Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn't anywhere you look.
—Mary Cornish

දිනමිණ, වසත් සුළඟ 04. 07.2017


  1. In the fifth poem has the 'Chinese Box' got a hidden meaning about some magic ?

    1. Often when Chinese meals are ordered as take-out, there are several little containers within the larger one and also a few fortune cookies with predictions. the writer seems to have seen a similarity in this to the process of long division.