Infinity in Simple Terms
Say you own a hotel.
No, it does not matter if it is a nice hotel,
only that it has rooms that count from one to
infinity by – well, pick any number
– by one because counting by ones is easy.
So you have this hotel.
Yes, you would need to employ
many maids and bellhops and bartenders,
maybe even those special detectives
like in a noir mystery from after the war,
but that is not the point. The point is
you have infinite rooms, starting with one,
two, three, four, and so on to infinity
whether they have been turned or not.
Suddenly, a bus with infinite seats –
What? Infinite hotel rooms, those you can
wrap your mind around but an infinite bus is silly?
Fine, all you need to do is agree
the bus has infinite passengers.
You have infinite rooms.
Everyone has a place until –
No, not everyone can have the room next to the ice machine unless
you have an infinite number of ice machines.
If it will make you happy,
infinite ice machines.
May I continue?
Infinite bus, infinite rooms, and now
infinite ice machines that are quiet, clean, and full,
everyone in place – with enough ice – when suddenly
a second infinite bus arrives.
You have to give a little bit here. If you were
okay with infinite rooms, there must be an infinite bus, and if
there is one, there can always be two because
that is how numbers work.
Look, you have infinite ice machines.
I get a second infinite bus or we will never
get to the end of this.
So infinite people are in infinite rooms
numbered by ones and well-stocked with ice,
but you have an infinite number of new people
needing beds and ice and the supervision
of men in fedoras watching for any hanky-panky.
So what do you do? You
count by halves because after all
anything whole can be split in two.
That is how numbers work.
The new people go into rooms one point five,
two point five, three point five, and so on.
We will take as a given they can share
an ice machine.
Numbers are divisible. So infinity
can have more infinity neatly
slotted between its folds like
the twice infinite people tucked tightly in
newly pressed sheets with stern faced men
in suits and skinny ties watching over them –
yes, and their ice machines –
as they dream of the next infinite bus
shuttled into rooms one point one,
seventeen point eight, nine, six, five.
Your room split between mine,
as we close our doors on theoretical hallways,
fall onto identical, polyester duvets
and listen to the wing-tipped footsteps,
the hum of compressors making shared ice.
by Amy K. Drees
Editor’s Note: The seemingly unending sentences in this poem underscore the theme quite well. Those who enjoy the puzzle of repetition and punctuation will enjoy the way this poem leads the reader into a theoretical space that is only real because we agree to believe it so.