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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.

Silence

by Eveline Pye 

First published at http://www.talkingwriting.com/eveline-pye-three-poems

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.

Star-Swirls

The polar ice-caps are melting, the mountain glaciers
Drip into rivers; all feed the ocean;
Tides ebb and flow, but every year a little bit higher.
They will drown New York, they will drown London.
And this place, where I have planted tree and built a stone
house,
Will be under sea. The poor trees will perish,
And little fish will flicker in and out the windows. I built it well,
Thick walls and Portland cement and gray granite,
The tower at least will hold against the sea’s buffeting; it will
become
Geological, fossil and permanent.
What a pleasure it is to mix one’s mind with geological
Time, or with astronomical relax it.
There is nothing like astronomy to pull the stuff out of man.
His stupid dreams and red-rooster importance: let him count the
star-swirls.

by Robinson Jeffers

Galaxy

faint
in deep space,
immense as a brain

down
through the thought-
shaft it drifts, a wale

of light to
which the retina
opens and is centered

time and
space dis-
appearing as the mind

recedes
to a soundless
flickering somewhere

deeper
than consciousness
where, permanent as

change
a whorl of light
rides, wheeling in darkness

by Richard Ryan

About Planck Time

Once upon a time, way back in the infinitesimal
First fraction of a second attending our creation,
A tiny drop containing all of it, all energy
And all its guises, burst upon the scene,
Exploding out of nothing into everything
Virtually instantaneously, the way our thoughts
Leap eagerly to occupy the abhorrent void.
Once, say ten or twenty billion years ago,
In Planck time, in no time at all, the veil
Available to our perceptions was flung out
Over space at such a rate the mere imagination
Cannot keep up, so rapidly the speed of light
Lags miraculously behind, producing a series
Of incongruities that has led our curiosity,
Like Ariadne’s thread, through the dim labyrinth
Of our conclusions to the place of our beginning.
In Planck time, everything that is was spread so thin
That all distance is enormous, between each star,
Between subatomic particles, so that we are composed
Almost entirely of emptiness, so that what separates
This world, bright ball floating in its midnight blue,
From the irrefutable logic of no world at all
Has no more substance than the traveler’s dream,
So that nothing can be said for certain except
That sometime, call it Planck time, it will all just
Disappear, a parlor trick, a rabbit in its hat,
Will all go up in a flash of light, abracadabra,
An idea that isn’t being had anymore.

 

by George Bradley

 

Why Wait for Science

 

Sarcastic Science, she would like to know
In her complacent ministry of fear,
How we propose to get away from here
When she has made things so we have to go
Or be wiped out. Will she be asked to show
Us how by rocket we may hope to steer
To some star off there, say, a half light-year
Through temperature of absolute zero?
Why wait for Science to supply the how
When any amateur can tell it now?
The way to go away should be the same
As fifty million years ago we came—
If anyone remembers how that was
I have a theory, but it hardly does.
by Robert Frost

I am like a slip of comet

I am like a slip of comet,

Scarce worth discovery, in some corner seen

Bridging the slender difference of two stars,

Come out of space, or suddenly engender’d

By heady elements, for no man knows:

But when she sights the sun she grows and sizes

And spins her skirts out, while her central star

Shakes its cocooning mists; and so she comes

To fields of light; millions of travelling rays

Pierce her; she hangs upon the flame-cased sun,

And sucks the light as full as Gideon’s fleece:┬░

But then her tether calls her; she falls off,

And as she dwindles shreds her smock of gold

Amidst the sistering planets, till she comes

To single Saturn, last and solitary;┬░

And then goes out into the cavernous dark.

So I go out: my little sweet is done:

I have drawn heat from this contagious sun:

To not ungentle death now forth I run.

by Gerard Manley Hopkins