The Law of Statistics

The Law of Statistics

for Sally Clark 1964 – 2007

You, Sally Clark, solicitor,
discover your son, Christopher
dead in his Moses basket. Harry, born
a year later, dies in his bouncy chair.

Pediatrician for the Crown,
Sir Roy Meadow, tells the jury
two cot deaths in the same family
would occur only once in a century.

Odds are one in seventy-three million,
lower than the lottery, beyond all
reasonable doubt. An easy decision:
You must be guilty.

At Styal Prison, the horde screams,
Here’s the nonce! Die woman, die!
They bang on the door, clamber up,
gawp as you cringe in a holding cell.

At the second appeal, your body
is free but your mind has crumpled.
You drink until you die,
your third son, left without a mother.

I tell this story to my medical students,
show death by natural causes
was more likely than murder.


by Eveline Pye 

First published at

Eveline Pye was an operational research analyst in the Zambian Copper Industry, before lecturing in statistics at Glasgow Caledonian University for 22 years. Her statistical poetry was featured in Significance, the joint magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association in their Life in Statistics series. Her poems appear in the Bridges 2013 Poetry Anthology (in the “Enschede” section, Tesselations Publishing). A collection about Zambia, Smoke that Thunders, was published by Mariscat Press in 2015.


Kew Gardens

(i.m. Ian Armstrong Black, d. 1971)
Distinguished scientist, to whom I greatly defer
(old man, moreover, whom I dearly love),
I walk today in Kew Gardens, in sunlight the colour of honey
which flows from the cold autumnal blue of the heavens to light these tans and golds,
these ripe corn and leather and sunset colours of the East Asian liriodendrons,
of the beeches and maples and plum-trees and the stubborn green banks of
the holly hedges –
and you walk always beside me, you with your knowledge of names
and your clairvoyant gaze, in what for me is sheer panorama
seeing the net or web of connectedness. But today it is I who speak
(and you are long dead, but it is to you I say it):

‘The leaves are green in summer because of chlorophyll
and the flowers are bright to lure the pollinators,
and without remainder (so you have often told me)
these marvellous things that shock the heart the head can account for.
But I want to sing an excess that is not so simply explainable,
to say that the beauty of the autumn is a redundant beauty,
that the sky had no need to be this particular shade of blue,
nor the maple to die in flames of this particular yellow,
nor the heart to respond with an ecstasy that does not beget children.
I want to say that I do not believe your science
although I believe every word of it, and intend to understand it;
that although I rate that unwavering gaze higher than almost everything,
there is another sense, a hearing, to which I more deeply attend.
Thus I withstand and contradict you, I, your child,
who have inherited from you the passion that causes me to oppose you.’


by D M Black, for his father.

The little folk

A wonderful poem about another human species:

The Cheesesellers Wife

Folk tales of little people abound
Retreating to the deep Earth
Now and then to emerge and engage
Ensnare or enslave
With trickery or with passion

Peripatetic you may have been
Leaving small trace of your lives
But deep in an African cave
We have found you
Naledi, little stars

We term the women who reclaimed you to the light
Underground astronauts
Yet you carried your beloved dead here
Through narrow clefts, over parlous depths
To lay them tenderly down to rest

As we stare into our deep past
And find you, Homo naledi
Those of us who wonder
Those of us who marvel
Are ensnared and enamoured

Copyright © 2017 Kim Whysall-Hammond

The discovery of fossils of a new human species  (Homo Naledi) is, in itself, a fascinating story. But why they are so ‘cool’ is very well explained by our fellow blogger on Fossil History at


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Dannie Abse, The stethoscope

Medicine is one of the sciences, and here is a fine poem:

Roy Marshall

” I felt that poetry shouldn’t be an escape from reality, but rather an immersion into reality, and part of my reality was, indeed, my hospital life at the time. And so I became prepared to write poems which had medical undertones. Louis Pasteur once said (talking of scientific inspiration), ‘Chance favors the prepared mind,’ and my mind was prepared to write poems that were medically coloured.”  Dannie Abse , from a lecture and reading delivered by the poet at the NYU School of Medicine, April 8, 1999.

Page from Dannie Abse Collected poems 1948- 1976, Hutchinson Press, 1977.

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Extinction or Fly Home Martha

Something to ponder……

Cheyenne Alexandria Phillips

Hey everyone, I know that the New Year is coming up and usually it is a very happy time but I would like to take this opportunity to remind you that as we say Goodbye to 2017, we also say goodbye to many species that have lost their lives to habitat destruction, climate change and direct human impact. I hope in 2018, you vow to make personal changes that will ultimately positively affect the environment and keep the massive picture we know as Biodiversity intact. 

(or Fly Home Martha)

I once read
of how we lost
so much life that
we were never
able to revive it,
that regardless of efforts,
the impulse of
uneducated decisions
left empty spaces;
missing pieces of a jigsaw
we were still
proud to frame.
What would Martha say
about her hole,
her blemish?
She did what others
before her did

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An excellent poem using scientific imagery from Louis Faber:

an old writer and his words

We arose from water,
crawled forth and inhabited the land
and claimed dominion
and the land appeared
to cede itself to us,
knowing better
and caring even less.
We return to the water
feel its pull
but immerse ourselves
only partially, willing
to risk only half drowning,
the land and air
usually silent, knowingly
laugh for they know
that a fish
out of water
eventually drowns
in a sea of air.

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