Saturday, March 03, 2007

Great Poem from the Writers Almanac

Poem: "The Invention of Fractions" by Jessica Goodfellow, from A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland. © Concrete Wolf Chapbook Series.

The Invention of Fractions

God himself made the whole numbers: everything else
is the work of man.
—Leopold Kronnecker

God created the whole numbers:
the first born, the seventh seal,
Ten Commandments etched in stone,
the Twelve Tribes of Israel —
Ten we've already lost —
forty days and forty nights,
Saul's ten thousand and David's ten thousand.
'Be of one heart and one mind' —
the whole numbers, the counting numbers.

It took humankind to need less than this;
to invent fractions, percentages, decimals.
Only humankind could need the concepts
of splintering and dividing,
of things lost or broken,
of settling for the part instead of the whole.

Only humankind could find the whole numbers,
infinite as they are, to be wanting;
though given a limitless supply,
we still had no way
to measure what we keep
in our many-chambered hearts.


chris e. said...

Thanks Steve. I read and printed this for Luke. I also shared it with others.

pdxWoman said...

I love this poem -- I heard it on NPR one day and finally got around to looking for it. Thanks for posting it!

Austin said...

Wow! I searched and searched for this poem on NPR's website after hearing it one morning, and I've finally found it here on your site. Should've known that I could count on a presbyterian (my closest kin). (I am an inquirer in the PC(USA) church.
Best to you. Thanks for posting the poem!