A Poem For Friday: “Uncommon Denominators”

This week’s poem is dedicated to my fellow Filipinos in the sciences, and to everyone involved in building The Mind Museum:

“Uncommon Denominators” by Patrick Rosal*

I add up the times I’ve fantasized about
women I’ve seen but never spoken to
and divide that by the hours
I drive past cemeteries and add again
the weight of breath in your mouth
measured in the ancient Tagalog word for yes
—but the number always comes out the same

So I subtract the moon
and the smell of incense on Good Friday
trying to connect Planck’s Constant
to the quantum moment between
a candlelit flick and the back of your neck
setting aside my 7 dreams of having sex once
with Tyra Banks who tells me God
You Filipino guys know
how to make love to a woman
and even if I tally the 10,069
channels launched by satellites
which have an asymptotic relationship
to the count of stones cast
from a sinner’s fist raised
to the power of eight million punch-clock
stiffs heading home late
still the number comes out the same
and when a beggar pirouettes
along an expressway’s center lane
swearing this won’t be his last
cigarette (smoke rising from
the rust in his moustache ) I suddenly know
the acceleration of a falling body
has little to do with slipping
a mother into the ground or
a whole greater than the sum of its parts

And if you ask what I’m doing
with 7 loaves and 4 fish multiplied
by the root of a dried tamarind tree
or the coefficient of friction
of a bullet on the brink of a rib
or the number of clips emptied
into an unarmed Guinean man
on a dark Bronx stoop I’ll tell you
I’m looking for the exact
coordinates of falling in love plus or minus
the width of a single finger
lost along the axis of your lips

(Taken from: “Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive”, the poet’s debut collection, and winner of the 2003 Members’ Choice Award of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop.)

The Mind Museum at Taguig is a project of the Bonifacio Art Foundation, Inc. and is curated by Maribel Garcia.** Already 30 percent complete and scheduled to open in the last quarter of 2011, the country’s first world-class science museum is invitingly at hand. If you can, please help make (and keep) this vision a reality.

(*Patrick Rosal is a New Jersey native, the son of immigrants from the Ilocos region of the Philippines. His latest book, “My American Kundiman” was published in 2006.)

(**Maribel Garcia is also one of National Geographic’s “Live Curious” campaign ambassadors. You can find her weekly science column, “De Rerum Natura”, in the Philippine STAR.)

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