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Sigma, by C. Dale Young

The symbol with the sharpest edges
and the power to sum an infinite
number of variables, the one

that allows the common 1
to stand not only side by side
with the mysteries of X and Y

and the likes of that oh-so-elusive
but links them and makes them more
as if to remind us it is

the only one-symbol formula which,
when translated from arithmetic,
means not just summation

but melting pot, or better yet,
all-inclusive (with an exclamation mark).
Even now, I do not understand

the workings of . What I do know
is that many years ago a woman
sat up in bed and died. In the days

since her accident, a thrombus had grown
deep in her thigh, grew until it broke free
and traveled through her veins, her heart,

to lodge in her pulmonary artery.
Our attending physician, our teacher,
had asked us how we might prevent such a thing.

He prodded us, suggested we use all
we had learned so far in medical school --
Until then, had never seemed so important.

C. Dale Young '91 is a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and poetry editor of
New England Review. His first collection of poetry, The Day Underneath the Day, will be issued by Northwestern University Press in April.

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