Numbers One to Five
Now there is something.
A singularity--a point of light
a point of reference to steer by--
though who knows where?
Lonely? Maybe--but what do I have
to compare it to?
One swallows everything--
a black hole takes two or more
and fuses them into oblivion.
All portraits are portraits
One big tree in the middle of a field,
the one we anchored the wench to
to pull down all the others
for the single crop we’ll plant
there until the soil’s too tired.
Often just one bird on the feeder,
One cat crossing the street,
One can only look someone in the eye--
in an eye not both--but what’s this?
He thought she was the one
but the first one was the one.
Beware of games that end
after the first one to score.
And so much more complex the possibilities.
It’s the other option, the one you could have chosen
and spend too much time wondering
if you should have.
But it is also what defines the one you
chose—the binary—the pole—
the contrast—an infinite dialogue—
the difference that makes
the singular an impossibility.
Our bodies born full of plurals
protect against dismemberment,
accident, disease—give the body another one
of those nostril things,
another ball just in case.
When explaining two,
it is not a good idea
to use balls of clay.
We spent the hour
rolling them into snakes
and then back into balls,
and I thought I was being
clever when I said,
“Here’s some math for you—
one plus one is two,” laying
the balls side by side.
You put your clay next to mine
and said, “Two plus two
is four,” but your sister said,
smashing them all together,
“Two plus two is one.”
Two makes one--
a new one, another one, a better one,
a similar one that will need another
to make another. Not the two of either/or,
the two of both.
Home is so much better when
you haven’t been there for a while,
especially if you go to the bar
after work before you go home.
Or this triangle--BA, MA, PhD.
It is so much better if you
go to the bar first
before the PhD.
But they say a tripod
can stand up anywhere
like the three-legged dog who
hikes his ghost leg.
Always a complication in bed,
but on a bicycle how nice
to have another gear.
The moderator, the ignored third party,
the interpretant of the sign, the buster
of binaries, the middle child
cannot exist without
earth, sun, moon
because because because . . .
I forgot to tell you that I saw
two bluebirds this morning
while waiting in the car
for the post office to open. They
ate berries off the tree—
small and russet like their chests.
They puffed themselves
against the wind, and tilted
their heads quickly to choose
this berry instead of that.
I had to pick up the car title.
They got to be bluebirds
and gave birth to
all myriad things.
Well, fuck for one, and the seasons,
the directional winds. He had
to say it four times before she
understood—he had four cookies
in his mouth and snorted.
Four thousand years ago
and four sons on my dad’s side
and four fingers of Scotch on a cold
day with blowing mist when the clouds
hang. My favorite of the elements
controlled in the hearth,
and I wish I had the cigar to go along with it.
Cows’ four-chambered stomachs
not to mention legs
and my four limbs a bit stiff after
the four of us came home from the hike
four miles round trip over near Taos, New Mexico.
A box, a frame, a balancing act,
a table, a chair, a room, the corners
of the page. Wheels on a car or a wagon
or a hearse or an ambulance or
a tractor. Need four to play hearts or bridge.
More than half a week.
Every four years it gets worse.
Every four years I’m reminded
how much I am not like most Americans.
I stayed up until four in the morning
thinking of how to explain
ethos, pathos, logos, kairos,
art, artist, audience, world.
We thought she’d be a boy
because Mom said Jesus told her
she’d be a boy. She didn’t even turn out butch.
Then we moved into the house with
the big pentagon on the wall. We
couldn’t ever figure out what to do with it,
just this big shape looming in the living room.
We commissioned someone to make
a mountain scene out of stained glass.
Dad built a pentagonal box for it
out of the wood harvested from
one of the scavenged walnut trees.
There was a light in the middle of the pentagon,
and the frame and the stained glass
fit around it, and a mountain scene
lit up in Oklahoma. The stained glass
was not very accurate. The trees
looked like cookies, thick with icing.
All this while another pentagon
took charge of a war. We wanted
to protest, but the school wouldn’t let us
call it a protest. So we called it
a vigil. “Silent for those in harm’s way,”
they could say—not silent as a way
to force them to think about why.