In his helpful little book Show Your Work!, Austin Kleon urges his readers to “open up their cabinet of curiosities”–or in other words, Don’t horde old work. Take those old gems out and give them away so they’ll stop making you feel complacent. In this spirit, and under the “Don’t horde” tag, I’d like to post a few things I wrote years ago, hoping everyone will enjoy them.
First up is a poem I wrote when my wife Jacinta and I were engaged. We were in college, we were insanely busy, and it seemed like we never talked; we just waved at each other across campus as we each hurried to the next class. Wanting to write about love, I naturally turned to that wellspring of sentiment, Euclid’s Elements of Geometry:
Beyond the Solar Ray
Once upon a time, before the Great Liberation,
When the tyranny of Euclid bound the geometric nations,
When lines from numbers stood aloof, and points did have no part,
When “algebraic” was not a proof, and mathematics had no heart,
Then was a romance born which all others does outshine,
A tragedy of quantity, when line did love a line.
She was a fair maid, fairly made, with end points most petite;
In mind she was a middling girl, in disposition sweet.
How clear in form and figure! How in beauty like an elf!
How evenly she lay with all the points upon herself!
Her lover loved her, how he did! Loved her, loved her well.
But sad beyond all telling, the lines were parallel.
On and on indefinitely the lovers both extended,
Pausing now and then for breath, when one of them got winded.
Across the distance set by fate one would the other see:
“My dear,” she cries and he replies, “My love, my love, AB.”
Their thoughts and words were passionate, for lines were not discrete;
Speaking thus they onward flew, but never did they meet.
Now reason has her limits; there is a boundary to her reign.
Definition fails, and demonstration pales, outside a certain plane.
There is a place apart, beyond the solar ray,
Where parallel straight lines can meet, in an unofficial way.
Across the actual infinite with burning hearts they leapt,
Way out beyond the pale, where never line had stepped.
Joy be to all you lovers who lead lives parallel:
As these two lines o’ercame, so you can do as well.
Calm to all you lovers, in pain, so sorely tried,
In time AB, CD were husband and the bride.
No matter how impossible it seem to see the way,
There parallel straight lives can meet, out there,
Apart, beyond the pale of reason, beyond the solar ray.