The Mathematics of Nature

Painting:  Sonja Ro  sing

Painting: Sonja Rosing


The sun, sporting wild, hennaed hair, slinks through air,
teenager with her gang of juvenile clouds—

yet her spindly fingers capably conduct chemical experiments,
balancing the variables of atmosphere, moisture, heat.      

The spider does research in spherical geometry,
calculating polygons involving trapezoids

between fractal, rain-stained twigs
that drip in measured count.

When it snows, flakes hover down
at equidistant, exact intervals—dreamy army.

Dawn strings dewdrops, perfect strands of pearls,
along each blade of grass, each cobweb filigree—but evenly,

the way a flock of geese spreads,
landing on the surface of a lake with proportional parity.

When gunshot sends a gaggle of geese into ascent,
the birds don’t collide, their wings never tangle;  

each feather, shape, whiteness separates intimately
as in an Escher print.

How can nature be so mathematical,
while mathematics is imprecise?                  

Numbers don’t add the way mathematicians think.
One plus one plus one raindrop

is still one raindrop.
One raindrop and one lake equal one lake.

A billion raindrops and one field yield
a corn crop of thousands of stalks, millions of kernels.

No matter how much you add to hate,
the final sum turns into a fraction

while love is a substance that augments with subtraction.
Two hot breaths swallow each other,

yet stupendously multiply into new life—tiny feet
that smell like vanilla and walk the earth as you do.

A whisper lasts an instant yet defines
the mysterious perimeters of mind,

the incongruence of one thought
occupying one space inside two skulls.

—Published in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the 21st Century, edited by Diane Frank

Photo:  Sonj  a Rosing