With These Nine Figures

zero sign

“With These Nine Figures” is included in Purifying Wind (now available as an Ebook for $4.99,  and in print for $12.00), an anthology of pieces about or mentioning vultures.


With These Nine Figures

   … and with the sign 0…any number may be written.

                                                                 Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci)

We attain from emptiness and the Sanskrit shoonya, from safira and sifr, zero.
As in unoccupied, as in void, as in what brims the homeland of null.
I once counted thirty-four black vultures orbiting my neighbor’s hill.
Despite appearing in Mayan codices, they neither sing nor cipher.
Fibonacci’s Book of the Abacus introduced the decimal system to Europe.
Regarding the tyranny of mathematics, is nothing something?
From alterity to belonging, its provenance assumes an absence of being.
Which is not to suggest xenophobia or superiority in order.
Whether depicted by empty space, wedges, or hooks, it held place.
Representation not of the object, but of its purpose, its path.
Black vultures do not smell carrion, but pillage from those that can.
Obliterative in the west wind, subtractive, unbound, they spiral.
Are the circlers in the sky symptomatic or merely symbolic?
Comparing negative infinity to its positive sister, I observe their way.



* * *

“With These Nine Figures” originally appeared, with a companion recording, in Clade Song in summer 2013. I had asked a friend for five or six words to use in a poem. She provided tyranny, emptiness, xenophobia, pillage and at least one other that I’ve forgotten. But it wasn’t nothing.


2 thoughts on “With These Nine Figures

  1. Geometry: a Love Story | Bob Shepherd

    “Imagination can . . . arrange for parallel lines to meet in secret.” –Shelley Jackson, on Italo Calvino

    Once upon a time, there were two parallel lines, and they couldn’t stop looking at one another.

    My lord. Such beauty, each thought. Who would have believed, in all the world, that such perfection existed? If only. . . .

    And so they went on, each longing.

    So close, yet so far away.

    Perhaps, one said, there is a certain purity in this. Holding the line.
    F that, said the other.
    Yeah, came the reply. F that.

    I know, for I ran across them both. I found one shy and acute, the other bold and obtuse. But they were just right for each other.

    It’s good, at least, to have you by my side, said one.
    Yes, said the other, and sighed. Perhaps we could meet in secret?
    No, damn him.
    Damn who?
    Euclid, the other expostulated.

    You contain infinities within infinities, said the first.
    You, too, said the other. You are my horizon. Aside from you lies only the abyss.
    That is very beautiful. And true, said the first.
    Yes, said the other. It is.

    On and on they went like this until, until,

    Their longing warped space itself. Or perhaps it was one of the gods, taking pity, crumpling space and time.

    And they lived happily ever after.


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