i Is for Imaginary

Other numbers may or may not be imaginary, but i is not real.
i peers over the windowsill of algebra;
i lurks around the corner, on the other side of the door,
just beyond the threshold of rationality, floating in the vast darkness
where a solid grounding in mathematics ought to be.
If i were just a linear segment, you could call i plane j,
but that is more complex, and who needs complications?
i can make itself useful.
i explains where the light goes when it’s gone.
But i is hard to grasp: you have to keep your eye on i.
i says that a positive attitude is irrelevant to negative feelings.
Don't count on i for a square deal;
i languishes in tipsy sinuosity while other numbers
with more integrity perform their everyday tasks.
i is easily misunderstood.

©2000 F.J. Bergmann

"i Is for Imaginary" appeared on nthposition.com November 2005.

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