Pat Jones

Designing the Experiment: Preliminary Studies

by Maryann Corbett

Outlier: an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data. Statistics derived from data sets that include outliers may be misleading.

Lips pursed, he’d struggled through the questionnaire.
He’d chewed his pencil in an act of trust
that points of data, massed and sorted there,
would help her build a method so robust
that walls would crumble.
                                       Now she sees them float —
his answers — off the curve, far to the right,
each solitary, weightless as a mote
drifting away from scatterplotted light.

She feels for him, the man outside the norm
whose numbers cannot justify her grant,
whose information takes an awkward form,
improbable and insignificant.
A soul she’ll cancel with a gentle laugh.
(He’ll get it, finally, when he sees the graph.)

Maryann Corbett’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The Evansville Review, Measure, The Dark Horse, First Things, The Barefoot Muse, and other journals in print and online. Her chapbook Gardening in a Time of War was published in 2007 by Pudding House.