Imagine sitting with a group of women and talking about numbers! Many of us do not like them. They have a language of their own that can be loved, feared, hated, etc. I handle numbers in a plodding manner, checking and rechecking for accuracy. My husband on the other hand is always calculating – he can do amazing things with numbers, not needing paper or calculator. I constantly have to ask him not to quantify things for me! (When exactly I’ll arrive when driving long distance, how much taxes we owe way before April, how many years we’ve been married, etc.) Not that he can stop, it is how he applies meaning to life. I like how Mary Cornish humanizes them, creating delightful images.
Numbers Mary Cornish
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
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.