Crazy 8

I think I’ve confessed this publicly before: I am innumerate.

What an illiterate is among letters, I am among numbers. It’s a skill I don’t possess. A magnetic field, or rather anti-magnetic field, surrounds me, and I repel mathematical understanding. Or it repels me.

So that on the rare occasions when I encounter numbers that I find attractive, charming, appealing, sensible, I am thankful. And I remember them. For instance, in this poem by Mary Cornish:


I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition—
add two cups of milk and stir
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication’s school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else’s
garden now.

There’s an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.

And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.

Three boys beyond their mothers’ call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn’t anywhere you look.

“Numbers” by Mary Cornish, from Red Studio. © Oberlin College Press, 2007.

Perhaps it will charm you too — even if you’re a whiz with numbers. I hope so, it will multiply my pleasure and  add to my enjoyment. Those are mathematical operations that even I can understand!

This entry was posted in Challenge, Etcetera, Failure, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to INNUMERACY

  1. Lucid Gypsy says:

    i doubt if you’re really innumerate, it’s more likely that you received that message when you were a child and you embraced it!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Sometimes I’ve thought that you’re right, Gilly.
      Not sure there’s anything much to be done about it now, but it remains a “wonder if…”
      And the difficulties with numbers certainly remain!


  2. LOL………..I too am innumerate! LOVED this post!


  3. I’m a member of the innumeracy club myself and was totally charmed by this poem!


  4. Gemma says:

    Don’t let them scare you. They can be fun. As long as there aren’t too many of them. Then they just get confusing 😉


  5. rebekah says:

    Loved the poem! 🙂
    I don’t know if I’m innumerate, but something is lacking. I would have failed math in school, if there had been such a thing as failing. When I think about mathematical calculations, I feel how my brain immediately starts to boil. On the other hand, I have an incredible memory for numbers! I remember phone numbers from more than thirty years back … long ones!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      That is interesting, Rebekah. Your description of “the brain boil” is startlingly like mine!
      Most of all I hated “problems” in arithmetic involving how long something took when done by how many people at some rate or other —


  6. 2e0mca says:

    I recall reading once (though I can’t remember where) that Mathematics is the Square Root of all Evil 😉


  7. I too am very dysnumerical…….I so love the poem because it is just how my brain works. I remember my undergraduate accounting professors looking at me in amazement when I would explain why I did certain things. Love it.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, Emil, you make me laugh — and remember! I would put two answers, one in numbers, and one with an explanation. Once I got this comment on a test: “it seems you understand this, but your mathematics are astonishing.”
      How brave you were to take ACCOUNTING!


  8. Maya says:

    Love the poem!


  9. pauline says:

    When numbers divide with alacrity and multiply with impunity, it’s hard to keep track of them. I loved the poem! Almost made me like numbers!


  10. Lol love the poem! I’m hopeless with numbers too. My eyes just glaze over. This is why i hardly buy lottery – I have a feeling I wouldn’t even know if my numbers won!


  11. cocomino says:

    Hmm. Interesting.
    In Japan, 7 means lucky. 4 means unlucky because 4 is called “Shi” It means death.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      When I was a little girl, 7 was my favorite number! In Japan I was surprised to discover that tea sets always had 5 cups, not 4, as we usually have. As you say, very interesting.


  12. Love the poem!
    From a fellow sufferer … 🙂


  13. A fun photo serving as introduction to this poem that I ADORE. “I like the domesticity of addition—add two cups of milk and stir—” – how clever it THAT?


  14. Madhu says:

    That poem is utterly charming and fun, and the comments even more so 😀


  15. Patti Kuche says:

    So I take it you don’t count sheep in the middle of a sleepless night!


  16. wodezitie says:

    Oh my gosh. This made me laugh. Thanks!


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