My poem “Five” is included in the summer edition of The High Window. Many thanks to editor David Cooke for taking this piece. The issue is spectacular – I’m delighted to have a poem appear in it.
Numbers numbers numbers: NINE
Early on in my other life I was hand-picked and hired to assist with budgets, to work with numbers. One of the higher-ups remarked that my spelling score was quite good for a “numbers person.” This amused me to no end, as I’d no inkling that a) anyone in the world considered me fluent with numbers, or b) that the mundane labor that comprised my livelihood had been noticed, much less evaluated, by someone beyond my small, three-person office (certainly no one noticed the writing I’d produced and published). More than a quarter century later, I’m still amused. And still working with numbers, which even now remain mysterious, magical, and even inspiring.
Take the number nine. Multiply it by two, and you get 18. Add the two digits that comprise 18, one and eight, and you get 9. Multiply it by three: 27. Total the two digits forming 27, and you get, yes, 9. Multiply it by four, by five, by six, by seven, eight or nine. Add the digits that comprise the sum and you return to nine. Interesting, no?
It appears everywhere. In Islamic cosmology, the universe is built of nine spheres. In Ancient Mexico, the netherworld consisted of nine layers. The magic square consists of nine parts. Beijing was designed as a center with eight streets. Hindu temple foundations contain jewels and nine distinct grains. The human body has nine openings. The number also appears in both sacrificial and healing rites. The River Styx bends nine times. I could go on (we haven’t scratched the surface), but will refrain.
And if this piece piques your curiosity, you might find this poem inspired by zero (a truly fascinating subject) of interest:
Or this one, “That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth,” which takes up the number three.
That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth
Overcoming duality, yet binding: the trinity.
Beyond the contrast of two, it initiates the concept of many.
Albertus Magnus claimed that three lives in all things.
In Old Saxon, the month of May is named trimilki, season of three milkings.
Number as quality depends upon the visual field.
The ancient Egyptian sign for the plural requires three strokes.
Lao-tzu said the triad produces all.
Acronyms, sports, and traffic lights reflect our ternary culture.
The devil may appear in the form of a three-legged hare.
Representing the unknowable: I, you, and the beyond.
The figure of completion, the number of the cube.
A Sumerian number sequence began “man, woman, many.”
The scale as a succession of thirds.
Imperfection implies the concealment of perfection.
Shiva’s number, his eyes, his braids, his place.
The triangle in Euclidean space.
I walk the three roads to the commonplace, preferring rhetoric.
Three to through, it penetrates the personal, unhinges that door.
The law; the land;
the world to come.
“That Number upon Which the Demand Lieth” was published in Posit: A Journal of Literature and Art in September 2017. I am grateful to editor Susan Lewis for taking this piece.
Odi et amo (zero)
How I fear what you contain.
I find only more you,
but when I multiply your being,
the result limits me.
I add myself to your body and obtain
only myself. If nothing is something,
how, what, may I claim?
Your beginning and end, a line
become circle, become identity.
I enter, and entering, depart.
“Odi et amo (Zero)” appeared on the blog in December 2015, and was published in The Basil O’Flaherty in October 2016.
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.
Scarecrow Contemplates Pi
At the moment you snipped away
my reticence, I spoke so eloquently
that even the stones wept at your
indifference. As you arranged my
pose and buttoned the shirt
around the wire and fodder
replenishing my torso, I understood
your roots and mine should never
merge: transcendental, and in
collusion with the irrational, we
circles cannot be squared. And
how must I reconcile my unheard
words? The longer I speak the
greater their magnitude – a balloon
expanding in volume retains its
ratio – one day my words will sift
through your filters and you will
at last receive them. I pull this
particular comfort close – that
patterns and frequencies and
tendencies become law, that the
fleshless and soulless, the mute
and misunderstood, the powerless,
the different, nevertheless will be
heard. But what of love? How may I
contend to feel, to know that which
is your right? A nervous system
conducts electrical and chemical
impulses, yet lacking these, my
coreless heart sags at the thought
of your departure. I am no man.
Is this truly not enough?
“Scarecrow Contemplates Pi” first appeared with two companion pieces in Eclectica in summer 2016.
I am Brahma
the straight line, the upright being,
fire that flares,
seed without end, manifold
self beyond all
polarity, radiating sun:
Philosophers considered one a non-number,
generatrix of all that follows.
The singularity. The lone.
From the Indo-European oi-qos we achieve solitude,
while the collective meaning of one derives from the Sanskrit sam.
United in itself, it changes nothing,
On its side it represents the horizon.
Alone is all-one.
The Latin non is one negated, as is the German nein.
Symbol of intellect, the Hindu moon glows wide.
Atomic number of hydrogen, magician’s numeral,
monad and eccentric, I bear the empty product.
“One” first appeared here in February 2016.