mathematics for breakfast

When the morning’s rays are slanting through the kitchen windows, it’s time for mathematics.

Once upon a cereal box, I read of the analytical
and inestimable Doctor Petal, who was confounded
by the nature of free will, and chose to coalesce
the time stream to make the future
as irrevocable as the past.

When the rain fell sizzling down, damp with lightning,
she observed the protozoa in each drop,
waiting to reach the underworld
to complete the polygon of life.

In later aeons, some evolved to birds
with diamond beaks that drilled
eight miles deep…

Enough. Speak boldly of the here-and-now.
Only that, and nothing more.

Here, the angle of the morning’s rays
reminds me of the earth’s rotation,
our cosy framework of coordinates
beneath the distant swarming stars.

Et tu, tempus? Are you irredeemable,
viewed from far above? Or has every
moment led to now, their lesson:
universal transience?

Breakfast with you is no different to dining
with a toaster in the company of a tea towel.

Last night nocturnal otherness descended.
I wandered over concrete slopes where window cleaners
sprayed blue mist through glass-less frames
to infuse unwary sleepers, and a stranger
in the gas light clarified existence:
five fraught words I don’t recall.

No more excuses. There will be other mornings,
but none will be like this one.

Tell me then yourself, about this particular morning,
and I will keep a faithful record on the cereal box,
to read aloud and please you with, tomorrow.

“Burnt Norton I,” TS Eliot in “Later Poems 1925-1935,” Faber and Faber, 1941. Here is an extract:

Go, go, go said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

mathematical sunrise, youtube video, first study for an artwork with the photophonic photographer Paul Sutton (insta). Made with VEE, the visual evolution engine.

53 thoughts on “mathematics for breakfast

  1. 3 a.m. here & haven’t slept. Eagerly awaiting an appropriate time to eat breakfast. Your words jolt me more awake as I free associate: age 10, box of Wheaties cereal, Breakfast of Champions, reading the unpronounceable nutritional names contained in each flake. Cereal box reading one day, giving way, to me reading TS Eliot’s Hollow Men at the breakfast table at age 15…time traveling in my mind. Thanks for the memories, Steve!

    • By coincidence, a few days ago, it was 109F inside the house here and over 100F most of the night. Impossible to do anything much, including sleep. I think I’ll need air con for the apocalypse.

      Me too, read whatever was on the packet, and I remember the cards and plastic toys in with the cereal, because nobody knew what a choking hazard was back then (or hygiene). My pleasure, Clarissa.

      PS I still have a lot of TS to read, have to find the time.

    • Thank you, Chris. My very occasional words arise from alcohol and prescription medications. 😸 I have done pretty much nothing I planned to. You, on the other hand, are going ahead in leaps and bounds, congratulations.

  2. i loved the accompanying video Steve, watching it was like sucking on a peppermint, the slow release of stored memories. Time captured and tamed to behave, cereal boxes are nostalgic bookmarks, each generation has thumb printed their own secrets over breakfast, laughing at adults who tried to get them to comply. I so enjoyed how your tale unfolds and each stanza a new act to be savoured and enjoyed, much like that peppermint.

    • Thank you, Gina. Little peppermint wavelets, I like that. That is very true — about the cereal boxes —I remember the games shared with my brothers, a time of innocence.

      It’s been very hot here in Sydney, and the ants have been coming into my house. With temperatures over 40C, they race around madly looking for tiny touches of sweetness. I felt something like those ants when I wrote this piece.

    • Have you tried luring them ants with marshmallow tracks? Hope the heat has been manageable. Or you’d be like a wad of gum on the road soon. Hmm.. I am pondering peppermint wavelets and pineapple lumps now.

    • Haha, I did (kind of). I couldn’t work out where they were coming in so I gave them some sugar water to take home. When I found out, as a not very good Buddhist, I used surface insecticide spray. In any case lots of rain here now, so no ants.

    • Bad Steve! Insecticide! 😭. There’s a plant here we call Jari Lima… Or five fingers not sure what it’s called in English it’s an environmental friendly way to keep mozzies away too. Makes them woozy and they just stay in between the leaves of the plants. It’s used to make repellant too.

    • I use peppermint oil occasionally, they don’t like that, but it’s expensive and not very convenient. I’m not fond of mosquitoes either, although they like me, and I prefer they do not get their drop of blood. The Buddhists do not approve. We agree to disagree. 😈

  3. I like this very much ‘To make the future as irrevocable as the past,’ is a great phrase. I love birds with diamond beaks’ ‘Only this and nothing more.’ Is this a quote from the Raven, by E A Poe? True poetry Steve. Thank you..

    • Thanks Margaret. Time—its direction, the future and past—is something I have been investigating for years, and I need to find more of it to spend on the task.

      The diamond beaks are more practical. “Only this and nothing more”: it sounded familiar and I just looked it up, you’re right. Stuff I’ve read that I’ve found interesting just pops out and often I don’t realise. Oh well, recycling is good for the planet. 😜 You’re very welcome.

  4. Haunting and otherworldly Steve, but as always underpinned by the every day…breakfast, cereal boxes, toasters, tea towels……brilliant…JIM

    • Thanks Jim. These are what I cling to, because I have a fear of the everyday becoming haunting and otherwordly. I have experienced it in a few situations for various reasons, and I am not keen.

  5. A slightly soporific feel about it complimenting my winter. A stranger in the gaslight clarified existence-something we could do with at the present time. As inventive as ever.

  6. Is the past really irrevocable? Are prophesies written in code on cereal boxes? All I know is that I like eating cereal at any time of day.
    Mind-expanding writing as always, Steve.

    • Thank you, Magarisa. My answer is, “It depends,” and particularly on whether we look from the inside or the outside of us. If the past is what we remember to be the past then it changes frequently, and if we interpret something as a code, like tea leaves, in a sense, it is. What to do with cereal is definitely on the inside of us. 😸

    • Yes, if the past is our memories of it, it does indeed change frequently. After all, any event is incomplete without an observer, right?

  7. “Breakfast with you is no different to dining
    with a toaster in the company of a tea towel.”
    Different and daring as always, Steve. Really enjoyed reading this poem and seeing your art.

    • Thank you, Sobhana, glad you got something out of it. I strive for ordinary things I think. The final video “Heliotropic Rondo” is now ready and I hope it will be shown at a local gallery.

  8. I am reminded of the view of fate found in many Greek plays, where a character attempts to avoid a prophesied future only to cause what they tried to avoid.

    More than once, I have purchased (or asked my mom to purchase) a particular cereal because of the toy inside. Also, a sad day for me was when they started putting things made of paper as the prize in Cracker Jack boxes.

    • I find the idea of “true” prophesies very interesting, because moving forward a few thousand years to scifi, I think the situation is the same. Time travel to the past and changing things causes the Bilking Paradox, ie, logical contradictions.

      The problem is information travelling back in time, and it’s exactly the same with a guaranteed accurate prophesy. In scifi, there are stacks of ways it’s been dealt with, including the Greek approach: you can’t change the future.

      Me too with the cereal, still the same today: appeal to kids any way that’s legal.

  9. Pingback: Wednesday Chat with Stephen, 2/5/20 | Go Dog Go Café

  10. Not being particularly good at maths, I laughed out loud at the first line.
    I’m not sure what to say really, but it just seems wrong to ever just click “like” on your work, when it’s so immensely enjoyable.

    • 🙏 You are way too kind Vanessa. My truth is that it’s always time for mathematics when it’s not time for experiments, although in recent years I’ve redirected away from Science to the Arts. It’s all at least 90% wrong, but when I have a chance, I might dig some early work out and post a page.

    • Well that was awfully strange…I sent a first comment that basically said, “Yes, please do that sometime” but it disappeared. My comment was in reference to that 🤷

    • At last, something I can explain in these strange times. Sort of. Adorable WordPress decided for no reason at all that your comment was spam, and I restored it. Although the future is a mystery, I will try to find a mathematical memento.

    • Hi Vanessa. I use a VPN, I don’t think it should be a problem. Family is well, and I’m as usual, slow as a wet week, or slower. I don’t know where the time goes.

      Apparently I can find endless ridiculous things to do in the pandemic world, which I suppose is some kind of blessing. A couple of less ridiculous examples: I recovered a very old TV set from storage and powered it up with no disasters (called that art), and identified a South African crossberry bush in my yard. Ate the berries to check and didn’t get poisoned, so thank you, Google.

    • Wow. I love that about the tv! Oh, and that you didn’t die from eating Google berries.
      I’m guessing an old Tv might work better than our current setup where any kind of slightly inclement weather disturbs the sensitive nature of the digital signals 🙄…
      it’s nice to hear the school kids in school behind our house. Strange days indeed. 😁

    • The prophecies are written on the subway walls and in the tenement halls, apparently. I’m familiar with toucans from living in Brazil. The Brazilian state of Tocantins in the Tupi language means ‘toucan beak,’ named after the shape of the junction of two rivers. (Possibly useful for trivia nights. In Brazil.)

    • Thanks, Rhapsody. Given how rarely I post, that was back in summer here, and I remember when I wrote it. There were dangerous bushfires burning on the East Coast, but it was an exciting time, because Paul and I had a video in a show coming up in Sydney. Finding some light inside always helps…

    • We had so many fires this year too and California, the next state over from me is still on fire. It’s awful. So much devastation and the smoke has been hazardous. Luckily I have outrun it a lot of times and still found some adventures. I almost had to evacuate once but luckily the winds shifted. Scary indeed.

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