## Archive for June 5, 2012

### Garrison Keillor Reads Math Poem

As Garrison Keillor said, “Here’s a poem for today by Mary Cornish, entitled *Numbers*.” (Or maybe you’d prefer to hear GK read the poem on The Writer’s Almanac.)

**Numbers**, by *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

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.