Thursday, November 15, 2007

Learning Curve

Another Fibonacci poem.

While I was working as his TA, an econometrics professor once told me students had to see material three times before they would remember it. Ironically, he said that to me but once. And yet I (usually) remember.

Learning Curve

from definition,
from basic axiom
to theorems of high complexity,
ever grander, more elegant, cresting challenges more steep,
the mind twists like Rubik’s cube, aligns all facets for the big exam,
then taken for granted, recalled only as needed,
into darker storage they recede,
deep under clutter
until forgotten,


Monday, October 15, 2007

Street 'kus

The street theme continues. Over the past year I have written a collection of haikus about street names, all except one about streets and intersections in towns I’ve lived in, visited, or read on Interstate Highway exit signs. Here are several, along with the cities in which you can find the mentioned streets.

Morgantown, West Virgina

Cheat Lake is one choice
at the Morgantown exit.
I choose Fairchance Road.

Anytown, U.S.A.

Forest, meadow, pond.
Found in ev’ry housing tract,
in street names, at least.

Fayetteville, North Carolina

After Qaeda’s bombs
they renamed old Anthrax Street.
Wha’d they think before?

Lake Buena Vista, Florida

For seventy bucks
walk Main Street at Disney World,
not at home for free.


Monday, October 8, 2007

Stop! In the Name of the Line!

In Pittsburgh drivers know what the stop line is for at an intersection. Many narrow city streets meet at tight intersections where buses and trucks need to take wide turns. Vehicles that stop beyond the stop line block part of the intersection and can cause gridlock while a bus making a left turn waits for the stop line scofflaw to back up behind the line. This can take a while if several cars behind the scofflaw need to back up as well. I rarely saw this happen in the Steel City because drivers knew the importance of the line, possibly from past embarrassment.

Away from Pittsburgh, not so much respect for the stop line. Several times I was almost hit head-on at an intersection near my house in North Carolina when I was turning left and a scofflaw drove 10 feet past the left lane stop line. Here in Springfield I'm frequently blocked from making a right on red when a monster SUV in the left turn lane goes past the stop line and blocks my view of approaching traffic.

Don't they teach this in driver's ed? Are there no questions about it on state drivers' tests? Is the stop line an affectation put in place by some designer from Extreme Makeover: Intersection Edition?

A recent article in the Raleigh News and Observer got me thinking about this and inspired this ode to the stop line scofflaw.

Stop Line Scofflaw

At night when you roll a car length past
where the stop line sensor cannot sense
the stop line scofflaw’s stranded car
and the green light dances all the way round,
do-si-dos with every behind-the-line van
while there you sit in your stop line jail
and curse the moon in your stop line daze,
may you do hard time for your stop line crimes
before a stop line Samaritan rolls in behind
and sets you free from your stop line bind.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Fibonacci's Revenge

Fibonacci poems are based on the Fibonacci series. The series starts with 1, and then each element in the series is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55, etc. In Fibonacci poems, the lengths of the lines (in words) rise or fall in accord with the Fibonacci sequence.

Once you get up to 21-word lines, it's hard to fit them into a page with normal formatting. You could have the lines wrap around, but I like the look of this type of poem with the lines fully extended. I saved the poem as an image file that you can click to enlarge.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Brought to you by the letters k, b, w, and v

I used to think the purpose of cataloging was to clarify identification and facilitate discourse. For example, the Latin names for plants have saved me many a time when a plant's common name was shared among multiple species. But when I tried to find a Mozart composition based on a Köchel number, my beliefs about cataloging got turned upside down as things got more complicated rather than less.

What the ***K?

Although I’m sure the toccata,
when cataloged five-sixty-five,
sounds no less sublime played
on the organ of Saint John the Divine,
hearing thousand and seven BWV
only makes me feel numb
while I tingle ear to ear
at Bach Cello Suite Number One.
Does K five-hundred-fifty-one
chunking sterilely off the tongue
make the heart dance as celestially
as Jupiter, Symphony Forty-one?
As the scholars Köchelly catalog away
by K-one, -six, or even newer Ks,
this humble listener’s to poetically stick with
the harmonious, memorable, Eine kleine Nachtmusik.


Saturday, September 1, 2007


The Labor Day weekend is considered the end of summer in the United States. To commemorate the occasion here are 10-word poems on the theme of summer. I don't believe this is an established poetry form; I misunderstood a 10-word challenge by a poetry group I belong to. Even if the form is accidental, I like the results. Not quite haiku, but similar in pithiness.

Evening’s sticky languor
oozes down the block,
porch by porch.

Driving gloves:
frosty morning fingerwarmers,
summer steering wheel oven mitts.

Tomato wedge, basil,
olive oil drizzle:
summer’s labor's tenfold reward.