Dwindling Primes

The biographical details are great, but where I’m really getting to know Molly is through her poetry. It comes in all varieties and styles–much of it simple prose. She began keeping a journal at the age of seven, and has been faithful to it for many, many years.

One of the things I’m trying to do is cross-reference the time she wrote the poems with what she was studying at the Academy or going through in her personal life. It provides more insight into what things are permanently her, and which were short-lived muses fluttering in her environment.

The structure of this poem is common in her time. It’s called “Dwindling Primes,” and it was created by A. J. Howitz, a math professor-turned-poet, in the 23rd century. Molly wrote an entire paper on Mrs. Howitz and seems to prefer this style ever after.

The form of the poem is as important as the content. Each line shrinks to create a pleasant shape, and the angle of the dwindling is as important as its straightness. Also the stanzas grow to the third and then fade again. The inclusion of mathematical notation (!= means “does not equal”) is a classic nod to one of Howitz’s traditions.

Howitz will become most famous for the discovery in 2274 that ‘2’ and ‘3’ are not prime numbers. She also described the arrangement of all primes with two simple equations, changing the entire field of cryptography.

This is why there are always 5 stanzas (the first prime).

There is also the allusion in the phrase “Dwindling Primes” that the overall number of primes shrank thanks to her findings. Since there are an infinite number of primes, this, according to Molly’s paper, was a joke she never tired of telling.

I hope the poem gives you some insight into Molly. And I hope the above explanation of its form gives you an appreciation for how much information is in The Reader–and how difficult it has been to piece it all together.

I’m alone and surrounded
by nasty beasts that
heckle & snort

Gassy giants orbiting themselves
swirling with the hubris
of a false gravity

Pits in the fabric of space and time
revulsion != repulsion
They suck

Dragging me down, crushing
I yearn for a near-miss
to sling me clear

Like a satellite doomed
But not for nothing
for greatness!

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