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Sample Poems by Carol Frome

Playing with Fire

With all your addictions,
the longed-for flame of quill-song
to answer your listening,
the impassioned books,
the many bibles, and the poems
that blister your hands
and pile up like tinder-
with all this, the possibility
of your own spontaneous
combustion grows
every minute
with your every breath
that heats
the cavern of space
about you, asking
for purpose, asking
to blow spark upon tinder.
You can't help it.
You depend
upon the incendiary confusion
of words with music,
with fire, the narcotic
rush, naked vein shot
with disorder, exploding
the neural pathways, the relief
of twisting
the old inscriptions into new praise.


The words whizzing by-oh-
whole dictionaries
of ancient stories. Who died? Who lived?
Who robbed whom? What turn
of events left someone
in shame, someone victorious, and who
claimed the guilt? All those people
who thought they knew,
they knew so little.
Whoever they are, right now,
they still circle their fires, they believe
they live on, they point
toward the flames
and believe they are blessed,
bathed in righteousness, never
knowing-for all their passion,
their presumptive
prescience, their shamanic posing-
they're only an old story,
a small hill of ash,
the legend of egos,
that someone, anyone,
will blow by on some day in the future.

Ars Mathematica

Explaining math, I say,
something is always first.
Some other last,
as in a family,
a first child, born
the old soul,
ancestor to others
because first always
says future.
But last has its burdens
too and must shoulder
past the regrets of others,
dragging the weight
of last hopes and history,
stories of waste,
stories of wisdom.

These are the projects
of ordinal numbers,
which define the geometry
of order and locate us
as we inhabit time and space.
Cardinal numbers
are only quantitative,
the arithmetic of counting:
three eggs, two cakes,
this much for you, this for me.
Other numbers include:
Integers. Fractions. Prime
numbers. Complex numbers,

and irrational numbers, too,
which can be algebraic
or transcendental-Emerson
contemplating the nature
of trees, spirit of stones.
Think of a song
that won't leave you,
or one thought coupling
to another and so on,
traveling irrevocably
into whatever we imagine
and never circling back.
Algebra, when graphed,
plots lines,
dependency of one quantity
upon another, function
of bone to soft tissue,
weight of my demands
to yours, yours to mine.
What we expect
to be given, we must
give to the other.
What we subtract
from others we will have
to subtract from the self.
But geometry insists
we abandon the limitation
of ascribing numbers
to lines. Lines
are only architecture,
but their collected nature,
geometry, demands
we examine fullness,

circles, swell of spaces,
curve of sheets
flapping in the wind.
Imagine the knot of your hand,
fracture of stone,
or measure of flight.
Try counting the capacity
for darkness in space.
Notice, edges are infinite-
look closely: a coastline implodes
into infinitesimal repetitions,
endlessly, and
So it is, we live in paradox,
a universe of imaginary numbers,
homeless and everywhere, the imagined
better defining our secret natures
than fact.

Answer Me

Tell me about the vines
of leaves crawling
this brick wall. Explain
by way of calculus
their seasonal change-
I want to know, too,
a formula for counting
the uncountable leaves
and one more especially
for how their soft voices
deny the wind.
Solve for me
the birds among the leaves,
how not one is visible,
and yet their chirping presence
permutates to cacophony,
noise charting this air and
curvature of afternoon.
Give me the theorem
of trees reveling foolishly
toward winter and another
for their protracted roots
gleaning the soil, constant
to all. And what about
the infinite line of seasons,
river of change, river of same-
Graph for me its measure
bending through space.
And answer me, finally,
the blunder of our living,
bones of our diminishing.