Sonnet for Physicists

a poem by
ZOE GUTTENPLAN | Reader + Writer 

Do you remember that moment when you first discovered that 1/3 was the same as 0.333… and so 1 was the same as 0.999…. and everything you had thought you knew crumbled and fell to pieces? That sense, of all prior knowledge suddenly dissolving into falsehoods and having to build your world up from scratch again is what inspired this poem. Starting from nothing isn’t always so bad. 

Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș

THE only number that is real is naught
Which stands with nothing there to hold its hand
Against display has zero proudly faught
Not seeming other, neither small nor grand.
Why should an absence wear a mask to hide
Its essence, or to fool a judging eye?
You cannot join a harsh condemning side
Against both lack of truth and lack of lie.
But naught wraps round to meet its darkest shade
Infinity, which too is always true
And boasts an endlessness on which to trade.
From this real number then you should take cue,
Shun all illusions and false faces yet
But give without the need to ever get.



Reader + Writer

Zoe Guttenplan lives between New York City, London, and Vermont. She has spent time working in bookshops, libraries, magazines, and publishing companies, essentially finding ways to be paid to read. Inspiration comes from the beauty of sadness, the golden ration, and the way that old books smell when you rifle their pages. Her work has appeared in BlazeVOX17, Ratrock Magazine, and is forthcoming in Feels Zine: Anger. She is the recipient of a SELEF prize for poetry.

Enjoy more of Zoe’s work at her website, zoeguttenplan.comand on Instagram @zoeguttenplan.