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Friday, March 13, 2015


by David James Olsen

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dedicated to Alan Turing

numbers hold more fear than words for some people haunted by sad notions,
especially that dreaded thirteen, surely evil by nature and dark to the core:
it has led men to doom due to gloomy superstition quoting Capitol maidens,
crumbled psyches with barren rage hinting at a horrific end to their pulse,
and crept into many tales of terror read by children with chattering teeth-
though braver brains have dared indulge the qualm of it and other integers,
oh so big: Euclid, Euler, Gauss, Newton, Leibniz, Abel, Weyl, Turing, and Fib-
all tangled with enigmatic math in ways we now must admire and learn,
so maybe we fools need to follow their lead, leaving baktun foreboding behind;
yet if you review closely, calculating the lines and words of each line
within this odd clumping of lexemes lurking in lyric patterns on a page,
you will find that often fears are founded in precessional and seemingly puerile
print which hides eery numeric code- and perhaps it never happens by chance.

Author's note: There are exactly 13 words in each of the 13 lines of the poem. The word "enigmatic" is used to reference the Nazi code "Enigma" cracked by Alan Turing; the phrase "barren rage" is from Shakespeare's Sonnet 13; the shortened surname "Fib" is for Fibonacci, who introduced to Western Europe in 1202 A.D. the brilliant sequence of numbers including 13, though it had been described earlier in Indian mathematics; in the Mayan calendar, each cycle of 13 baktuns encompassed an Age, making many people believe the final baktun was bound to be apocalyptic; each full "precessional" cycle on Earth takes 26,000 years, perfectly divisible by 13, and amazingly, as if our most ancient predecessors knew this, it is slyly interlaced into almost every culture's oldest architecture and creation story/legend such as the number of maidens painted around George Washington on the ceiling of the Capitol dome in D.C.

David James Olsen has been published by Instigatorzine, The South Townsville micro poetry journal, and here in The New Verse News. He is currently submitting much of his recent poetry and writing fresh verse every day. Also rehearsing a uniquely conceptualized production of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, he looks forward to its New York run and subsequent tour to Milan, Italy. Though he enjoys the juggling involved in being an actor-singer-poet-researcher, he finds the most peace while gently gripping a pen.