“The Institute”

By Dan Burt Published 2012

Andrea Kane

Freeman Dyson, Professor Emeritus in the School of Natural Sciences, Bloomberg Hall

A sign and eight low buildings pass
unnoticed in a field the size of Central
Park: a wall-flower by a college town.
Wandering its halls, one chair offices,
bare egg white walls, nothing stands out until
I reach a lounge where mathematical
notations – integers, fractions, powers,
roots, Greek letters, brackets, slashes – weave
arabesques of genesis and infant stars
for paper napkin audience and nibbled
chocolate bars, on slate where palimpsests
and marginalia in coloured chalks suggest
a coffee break authored this text
a plaque below it warns, DO NOT ERASE.

Today’s news is no better than yesterday’s:
three suicide bombings in the “cradle
of civilisation”; a dowager billionaire
in Voltaire’s homeland gives her daughter’s
patrimony to a decorator; tar balls seed
hot beaches in a spoiled land whose citizenry
always blame others; immortality remains
elusive and, sub specie aeternitatis,
there will be nothing. The same is forecast
for tomorrow, the one bright patch a blackboard
crammed with symbols I cannot understand,
guarded by three words, DO NOT ERASE.

From We Look Like This (Carcanet, 2012) by Dan Burt, former Director’s Visitor