The Goldbach Conjecture, that every even integer greater than 2 can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers, was first stated by the historian and amateur mathematician Christian Goldbach in a letter written in 1742 to Leonhard Euler (1707-1783). It is a nice example of why I find the theory of numbers so fascinating: very simply expressed ideas can resist proof for centuries.
So it was rather with tongue in cheek—than with any genuine regret about our continuing to fail to prove the conjecture—that I sat down to write the poem. And the natural numbers cooperated, as they always do, by heading off toward infinity. They can’t help themselves, but at least they constitute the smallest of infinite sets!
jottings on a margin,
indecipherable palimpsest scribbled over…
From These Walls Do Not Fall, by H.D.
On my chair in the woods, I read H.D.
Wild roses bloom while I am half asleep.
Your phone keeps pocket-dialing me, annoyed.
Last scraps of sadness. Trash to haul away.
Living among these birds, I feel their love
disquieting, try talking to the trees
to no effect, the natural numbers fleeing
one at a time, toward infinity.
With doubt struck from the record, heaven sent
late rain’s sweet on the mountain. While the Bay
lets herself go, the forest, like the sky,
shadowed by certainty, would give away
too much, and make me ache for the lost key
to not believing what might never be.
For Charles Entrekin