The Teeth Of Infinity

``some equations and theorems appear to have a very austere and genuine poetry.''

John Fowles

My five-year-old daughter began

to count while playing alone

with her Tinkertoys: ``Infinity-

and-one, infinity-and-two, infinity-and-

three....'' I thought, my brilliant child

taking after her old uncle

math genius, another candidate

for numbers as the most

precise language.

They can speak equations

at the dinner table, have that in common,

argue formulas and theorems,

while the rest of us tell jokes

in blundering words, monolingual,

as background kin should be, trying

to be good, nevertheless. Still messy,

we do our best above the soiled

table cloth that marks

the ending of a noisy feast.

But can infinity-and-one really be?

It is, by definition, impossible,

``and'' meaning ``plus,''

where no more room exists.

Shall we rule out ``and'' then,

correct the child

in the middle of her litany, concerning -

``infinity-and-one-hundred-and-seventy-three.''

Or am I merely speaking English?

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