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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 

of oneness.


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?

Another eye?


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.

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