Every Atom | No. 125

Earl S. Braggs

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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The words of Walt Whitman, “The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem,” granted me permission to compose the most daringly idiosyncratic poem I could imagine, “Before and After the AfterMath: 9x11=23.” Transcending boundaries, constructed and powered by an incantatory rhythm in the life and tradition of Whitman, “Before and After the AfterMath: 9x11=23” is a 9-11 poem that makes use of mathematical language and mathematical concepts to narrate the American tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Lines From “Before and After the AfterMath: 9x11=23”


…Y1K + 800 +65y divided by 2=1 Nation under                  God


speed= distance divided by time = Times Square clock stopped… 

              time                        speed


Bin   x   4 FLTs of compressed confusion divided by       Jesus

O                                                                                                     Allah


inverted without warning to                              Allah x 9x11=23…



The first time I read this poem to an audience, after the reading, the Tampa Review Editor and staff approached the stage and asked if they could publish “Before and After the AfterMath: 9x11=23” in Tampa Review 33/34. In the volume, the closing note states, “Earl S. Braggs’ poem that closes this issue, grappling with the chaos of September 11, reveals and transcends boundaries. It weds math and grammar…searching for unity in apparently antithetical language systems and world views, making art that may enable us to find (closing line of …: 9x11=23) ‘a seat cushion that can be used as a flotation device.’”

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A UC Foundation and Battle Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Earl Braggs is the author of twelve collections of poetry. His latest are Hat Dancing Blue with Miss Bessie Smith and Negro Side of the Moon. Cruising Weather Wind Blue is forthcoming.


Cover art by Mike Tyer