Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thirteen Ways of What??

Mars and I took the Wallace Stevens Walk as a part of Connecticut Trails Day. Stevens was both a well-respected imagist poet, and an insurance executive. The "walk" traces his daily 2.5 mile hike from his home on the west side of Hartford to his office at the Hartford Insurance Company – during which he composed portions of his poetry. For a photographic essay of the walk please visit Mars' website @

One of Steven's best and most famous poems is "Thirteen Ways of Looking a a Blackbird." Each "way of looking" is a separate verse. And the walk is marked with thirteen carved stones – each with one stanza engraved on it.

It is a great poem. But I think it could have been even better if the author had stuck to the subject about which he knew the most – instead of dabbling in the mysteries of ornithology. It is also, based upon my business background, one of my areas of expertise.

So, using mostly his own words, I have made those changes.

I now present:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at an Actuary

Among twenty paper mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the actuary’s mouse.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there were three actuaries –
Until I ran the numbers.

The actuary whirled in the regulatory winds
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and an actuary
Are a calculated risk.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of projections
Or the beauty of actual results,
The actuary whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the actuary
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
Of the 3 pm coffee break.

O thin men of marketing,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the women
Hang on the words of actuaries?
Chicks dig geeks!

I know noble algorithms
And arcane, inexplicable formulae;
But I know too, That Math 101 is involved
In what I know.

When the actuaries left for the day,
It marked the edge
Of one of many Venn Diagrams.

At the sight of actuaries
Creeping through a red light,
Even the bawds of caution
Would laugh out loud.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he had made a math error
But quickly he remembered
Twas he controlled the numbers.

The rates are changing,
The actuary must be calculating

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The actuary sat
Figuring the odds of each route home.

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