With These Nine Figures

zero sign

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.

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Inquisition

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Inquisition

1.
I breathe smoke
from the fire
warming our feet

Something is not right
but not wrong
yet

like the bones’ dance
on wires
in a bad dream

Fear’s sharp blade twists
burning with the slow
heat of coals

2.
I cannot read ashes
the message
of cracked stones in desert light

nor the poetry
of the cow’s skull
white on dark sand

What right has a man

And the snake’s
quivering tongue tasting
what the air brings to him

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Originally posted in December 2014. One of my earliest published pieces, this first appeared in Taurus, in 1984. Curiously, this is not the piece that I remembered having been published in Taurus. I wonder if that poem still exists somewhere? Such is memory…

3 Poems in Posit: A Journal of Literature and Art

I’m delighted to have three poems appearing in Posit: A Journal of Literature and Art. Many thanks to editor Susan Lewis for taking these oddities.

To get a taste of what Posit is about, read the Editor’s Notes.

Door

door

Door 

What would you conceal?
Or open to. Could you unfurl

your fist to daylight
and shudder loss away — one key,

one digit, one death — presuming the universe
and all its hinges available for inspection

behind yet another unlatched presence.
And this spinning disk,

how shall we step off? Every moon
sheds its coat. Listening, I turn the knob.

mooncoat

“Door” first appeared on the blog in September 2016.

Tree, Ice, Window (December 13, 2000)

Tree, Ice, Window (December 13, 2000)

I.

This doubling of age,
increments gained, like a shadow’s

flesh, ever flowering, ever diminishing,
consuming all.

And having gained stature,
what of the syllables lost in the blur,

the fecund process
unnoticed, unheard.

Reciprocity of motion, the leaf’s descent.

II.

Bent under the hour’s weight, it
departs untouched,

aloof,
yet watched and not alone,

enduring its slow release
as the morning deepens.

III.

The eyelid droops, then opens,
defying gravity and those things heavier than air,

and opening, rescinds
all notion of secrecy.

Somewhere the voice expends its energy
and lies fallow,

like a storm awaiting the perfect
moment, then appears

in all its arterial splendor,
tunneling through the night’s long reach

and the transparent dream.
Or a hand draws the shade.

 

An older poem, from the “vault.” I barely remember writing it.

Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

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Self-Portrait with Umeboshi

Our resemblance strengthens each day.

Reddened by sun and shiso,
seasoned with salt,

we preside, finding
comfort in failure. Or does
the subjugation of one’s flavor for another’s

define defeat? The bitter, the sour, the sweet
attract and repel

like lovers separated by distances
too subtle to see.
Filling space becomes the end.
What do you learn when you look through the glass?

Knowing my fate, I say fallen. I say earth.

 

Ah, simplicity! When I was a child my mother would occasionally serve rice balls in which a single mouth-puckering umeboshi rested at the center. These have long been a favorite, but I admit that umeboshi might be an acquired taste. Commonly called “pickled plums,” ume aren’t really plums but are more closely related to apricots. I cherish them.

“Self-Portrait with Umeboshi” first appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series (August 2014), was included in the subsequent print anthology, Self-Portrait Poetry Collection, and also appears in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

 

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