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 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.
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
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
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
by Robinson Jeffers
in deep space,
immense as a brain
through the thought-
shaft it drifts, a wale
of light to
which the retina
opens and is centered
appearing as the mind
to a soundless
where, permanent as
a whorl of light
rides, wheeling in darkness
by Richard Ryan
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.
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.