Residues of Ideals

Isotta Cesari was the wife of Lamberto Cesari. She was very talented and made a name for herself with her writing and translating. Here is an example of a poem she wrote. It appears in I Cesari, Residues of Ideals, The American Mathematical Monthly 64 (6) (1957), 420.

Residues of Ideals
(after a mathematicians' party)

The room is filled with emptiness and smoke
The rug looks bored and sullen - nostalgic for laced oxfords, probably,
The large, brown, weighty kind that has impressed upon it for an evening
The necessary and sufficient condition of existence.

The chairs, which had been twelve at eight o'clock,
Twelve four-legged, seatable commodities, worth sixteen dollars each,
Are turned into a countable set of points, dense almost everywhere
And scattered random-fashion within party limits.
The tables, freed for five short hours from humdrum horizontalness
(Thanks to mathy minds) had taken to the air as intersecting, real,
Or tangential planes. But they came in now - with a crash (it's 1 :AM)
The debris spreading wide. A lemma lost its sense
And lies dead on the floor, covered with paper napkins.
Toothpicks on window sills. Cherry stones. And salad leaves.
And fragmentary sandwich matter. Prime ideals, lower radicals
Smoldering among the ashes of cremated Chesterfields.

And at the bottom of a tall and empty glass a theorem lies quite dead (and wet)
The experts will identify the body.
Someone will bury it beside the lemma in a journal
And hide the grave under a corollary.

JOC/EFR March 2011

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