The Calculus of Rain

Come to drum this metal roof in sixteenth
and thirty-second notes, to puddle, gouge
a dirt road that spins the tires’ worn teeth.
There you once pulled into a large garage
and felt at home. But then came old age
and forsythia, the bush rabbits sift
to nibble yellow. Rain’s the teacher’s grounds.
Xeno’s paradox, where half means half

x infinity—the tortoise’s handicap
never allows the hare to win the race.
Splatter drops in my eye, vitreous
detachment, blood and debris. Hazard cups
the field of view, invents the calculus:
irrational, continuous.
Irrational, continuous—
the verge on which we stand to see the moon,
its cratered shell a self once benign,
then abandoned, imprisoned. Fingers
count to ten when little, then twenty—
learn with glee sets of nine, listen to pi
till, forced to memorize the language
of numbers without knowing the why

turn their back on trigonometry.
Memories drip and pummel, the past returns
in dream: satin buttons forced through tight
holes, bodices of stiff sateen to hide
budding breasts. Mother knits and purls,
her needles clic clac like the train to Prague.

Her needles clic clac like the train to Prague.
She sits and sips her glass of wine. Father’s
slipped below the Hawthorne. His ashes beg
the mud for clues. The sun’s corona flares
as if to redeem its scientist, one who
took to house arrest still mumbling heresy.
Sir Newton fudged the rules of gravity.
An apple falls fast as a suicide—

is that you at the top of the falls,
unsure whether to leap? Why not stay
awhile longer—what happens to the body
needn’t concern its host. The four laws
of Buddhism precede each demise. Study
especially old age with its ailments.

Especially old age with its ailments
exponentially grown larger. A hole
in the side peels back, throws off the soul
to find the burning bush, or autumn’s
ending, the nothing for whose crown
curious eyes seek and tongues wag, trade
in words. For the sake of dissolution

Tibetan monks adopt a college, wield
colored chalks on boards, make elaborate
mandalas. Chant same to a river
and pour their art into water so that
each comer may receive a treasure
to remember: shaken colors gone brown at
last, intertwined, joining the common hub.

Lastly intertwine, join the common hub,
we girls who shy away from mathematics.
Even those professor-born, who lobbed
our balls into the grass of an artistic
court where money didn’t matter, or so
we became convinced. Our collective wince
fills rivers and seas, as rain drops do.
The infinite falls collect in tins.

Give us the means to water our thirst
for knowledge. Must the heretic be thrown
overboard, the sky hold irrational bits?
Puzzle back the past, inhale present scents.
Father’s physics rises from springs beneath
come to drum this metal roof in sixteenths.

-Judith Skillman