Monday, January 24, 2005

Uncommon Denominators

Patrick Rosal (1968-) is a New Jersey native, a son of Ilocano immigrants, and a Literature professor at Bloomfield College. With rhythm and a touch of his Filipino roots, his poems are known to show vivid imagery of life in urban New Jersey. He is the author of a full-length poetry collection Uprock Headspin Scramble and Dive, and a chapbook Uncommon Denominators, which won the University of South Carolina, Aiken Palanquin Poetry Series Award. His works have been published in Footwork: the Paterson Literary Review, The Beacon Best of 2001, and The NuyorAsian Anthology.

In this poem, the persona tries to explain love in terms of knowledge and his everyday experiences. But “the number always comes out the same,” and still he couldn’t find the answer. It speaks of the inability to disclose what love really is because of its abstract extent. Thus, it reminds me that love is more valuable than all the knowledge and achievements the world has to offer.

-Neil Jameson O. Sta. Isabel

Patrick Rosal

I add up the times I¹ve 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 Planck¹s 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 sinner¹s 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 expressway¹s center lanes
wearing this won¹t 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
my mother into the ground or a whole
being greater than the sum of its parts

And if you ask what I¹m doing
with 7 loaves and 4 fish multiplied
by the square 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
I¹ll tell you I¹m 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



Anonymous said...

The persona of a Christian-Filipino-mathematician-slash-physicist in an attempt to decipher the most formless notion of falling in love. Uncommon denominators--essentially because the real definition of love cannot be equated in formulas or in time, nor can it be found in the patterns of this man's complex day-to-day metropolitan life. This only magnifies the conflict between love and logic because they rely on two entirely different faculties. Nevertheless, it points out the scatterbrained mode of reasoning (a bit ironic in this case as highfalutin allusions are made) that is associated with discovering love in one's life. The last stanza wraps up, as the persona's plain wish is made evident, that is his wanting to understand love for all that it is. 'The width of a single finger lost along the axis of your lips,' acts as a symbolism to imply for the persona to be silent and recognize that it simply cannot be figured while being carried away with all his eager speculations.

--rachel de mesa

Ralph said...

This is a product of spending way too much time in the library, feeding on nothing but Math and Physics. On a positive note though, it is incomparable and very witty. The author used a lot of imagery, especially with the inclusion of Tyra Banks. All just to find the coordinates of falling in love.

For me, it took a few more times of reading to get a grip on its message.

Anonymous said...

Whew! This poem talks about how one's world turns topsy-turvy when he falls in love. The author's style(mathematics)makes his poem successful in conveying his message. There is no exact definition of love. No one can actually explain the process of falling in love. This poem makes me think how precious love is. It cannot be measured. It cannot be defined. It is so unique that one is super lucky if he gets to experience the confusion and excitement it brings.

*Kristine Valenzuela*

Anonymous said...

haha! this poem is probably written by a math genius who suddenly fell in love. :) this poem just shows how complicated love math. - kristel jacinto, friend of melinda yoingco

athea said...

It seems to me that the persona of this poem uses juxtaposition of classicism and romanticism in his efforts to explain in tangible terms the abstract nature of the word love. Evident throughout the poem is the comprehensive use of biblical allusions, as well as that of scientific principles. As we all know, science and religion in our world are two distinct institutions that are separated by many contrasting beliefs and philosophies. Science is a product of classicism, its principles being founded upon thorough reasoning and logic. Religion, on the other hand, is more of a mixture of both classicism and romanticism. That is, while it is based on reasoning and logic by biblical scholars and also promotes classicist catechism, the emotions and free expression of feelings are also treated with importance. This juxtaposition along with the use of sexual references set the tone of the persona's perplexity and struggle to balance or choose between reason and emotion -- something we all can relate to. The use of numbers, which may confuse readers, also further tells of the persona's confusion; there was no way the power of his mind can explain what was going on inside his heart. In his efforts, therefore, of trying to "find the coordinates of love", in other words, in trying to explain love concretely, the persona realizes that he cannot equate love with logic, that no matter how successful science is in trying to explain how things work, it can never explain love. Moreover, the poem also conveys that like religion and unlike science, the essence of love lies not only on the books, the theories or the principles, a great part of it still involves the emotions.

--Athea Alabanzas, friend of Annalou Pagador

Anonymous said...

I didn't understand the words in this poem, but knowing that my friend James was the one who posted this, I finally knew its point. It actually reminds me of him (you now know why). The connections between the dominant words in this poem is vague, like from Physics to Mathematics to Tyra Banks. Thus, it shows how abstract love is that even though the most complicated theories in the universe couldn't grasp its idea. There's no explanation, just emotion.
--Noemi Gonzales
friend of James Sta. Isabel