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About this poet

Sally Ball is the author of two poetry collections: Wreck Me (Barrow Street Press, 2013) and Annus Mirabilis (Barrow Street Press, 2005). The recipient of fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the James Merrill House, and the Ucross Foundation, among others, Ball is an associate professor of English at Arizona State University and an associate director at Four Way Books.

Annus Mirabilis

I.

In retrospect there is no side to choose:
in math, Newton was earliest to make the formulas contort and yield
but never told a soul; and Leibniz, a little later,
did the same startling calculations somewhat differently,
and published them, as was his way:
wishing always to improve the world.

What they had in common:
dead fathers
bookishness
rigorous, enormous curiosity
sitting for hours at a stretch in one chair, thinking
not sleeping enough
never marrying
egotism
alchemy
the abandonment of alchemy
bureaucratic service, which made science and philosophy a hobby
coinage
dying out-to-pasture, genius-wise

Isaac, though, was born three months after his father died;
he did not have Leibniz’s jolly family years,
no father teaching him to read history both sacred & profane.
Isaac arrived small enough to fit in a quart pot.
Everyone expected him to die.
His mother moved away when he was three:
remarried, gone until she was a widow
for the second time. A seven-year indoctrination
into solitude. At age 19, he made a tabulation of his sins
including, threatening my father and mother Smith
to burne them and the house over them.

Curiosity an oblivion to be embraced,
an opportunity for fearlessness, for vanishing.

Why publish?  That makes a self instead of losing one.

 

 

II.

Insight must be joined to fervour.

 

 

III.

Fantasy is helped by good air, fasting, and moderate wine.

 

 

IV.

Curiosity a place to live, a battlement,
a universe.  And they were not ashamed of it.

 

 

V.

Electric pace and heady certainty and otherworldliness—
a definition of pleasure:

Leibniz, who’s always earnest, usually full of pomp,
it’s hard to imagine him entranced. So well anchored to the world
that he could always get the fervent insight down and pass it on.

Then Newton, hungry, refreshed, a little tipsy:

what kind of fantasy? the undulant many-colored circles that roamed
before his eyes after staring at the sun.

So matter-of-fact, so self-contained.

 

 

VI.

There were two years, actually:  anni:
Newton had fled the plague away from Cambridge,
to the farm at Woolsthorpe, in the prime
of my age for invention. Calculus, optics,
machinery . . .  on his own land,
the heir, the patriarch:
i.e.  whole days to spend alone.

What is a self but an experiment—
one among many . . .  but what it finds
may rise above the viscera

 

axiom

 

statue

 

sonata

 

the made propels, eradicates the maker.

Copyright © 2005 Sally Ball. “Annus Mirabilis” originally appeared in Annus Mirabilis (Barrow Street, 2005). Used with permission of the author.

 

Copyright © 2005 Sally Ball. “Annus Mirabilis” originally appeared in Annus Mirabilis (Barrow Street, 2005). Used with permission of the author.

 

Sally Ball

Sally Ball

Sally Ball is the author of two poetry collections: Wreck Me (Barrow Street Press, 2013) and Annus Mirabilis (Barrow Street Press, 2005).

by this poet

poem

The mind doesn’t do what we want it to do.

Mine plays speed Scrabble; it sifts pages and pages

of pictures of shoes. Palmyra goodbye. Temple of Bel not a pun

but a ruin. A ruined ruin, a ruin sent to oblivion

on purpose. Who cares if I fold up at my desk

a heap of angry sorrow. Not any

poem

I know you are dying
as always, even you big ones
from Queens, or from Nyack,
and I’m in the habit
of checking the clock,
midnight again. Again no
phone call, no lungs
expanding and contracting
with some machine
for a brain while the hospital
empties and a family