The mathematician sits. She sits in the abstract. Abstracting, she considers a form. A form like a poem that works in two directions at once.
A poem that follows you around the room with its eyes, like Rembrandt’s eyes in a self-portrait by Rembrandt.
A poem like that cardboard effigy of Queen Elizabeth at the county fair that kids run up and put their own faces into: that is, a poem with a gaping hole where its brains should be.
Poems like dice made out of one’s own wisdom teeth.
Clockwork poems that swing side-to-side like a hypnotist’s watch.
And after that, exploding poems.
Poems that geyser up when you pop them in your mouth with a swig of diet cola.
Poems that erase their own hoofprints as they trot along.
Whose thought begins with a labyrinthine conditional phrase, only to cut the thread mid-sentence & leave the reader defenseless before the gaping maw of the Minotaur.
Dream of a poem about cranes that, when folded into a paper crane, tells you exactly how to fold yourself into one.
That gets smaller as it gets further away, and more desirable.
A poem that warns you with its right hand to watch your back, while pinching the wallet from your pants pocket with the other.
Dream of a poem that woos you by assuring you you’re definitely not the one.
Robert Graves’ “Love Without Hope.” Keats’s “This Living Hand.” Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.”
A poem like a halo held in place by the good deeds of the Bernoulli principle.
Palindromic poems. Or is it hippodromic. Aerodromic?
Poems that make simultaneous but contradictory sense in two unrelated languages.
“Poem of the Power Set”—that is, according to Cantor, the poem of the set of all the subsets of the natural numbers.
And this one, that can be rolled up into a spyglass or spitball shooter.
Adjustable funnel for solids that act like liquids.
Flammable pipe for candling earwax.
Poem that’s lost its wool hat, and wants to know if it can borrow yours, and maybe those gloves, too, if you don’t mind.
Poem that has no intention of ever giving anything back.
That keeps its shape no matter how small it gets.
That keeps its shape, no matter.
That keeps its shape.
Henry Walters is a naturalist, teacher, falconer, and writer-in-residence at the Dublin School, in Dublin, New Hampshire. His first book of poems, Field Guide A Tempo, was a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait with Beret and Turned-Up Collar (detail), 1659