Saturday, July 28, 2007
The Absence That Zero Stands For
I am reading a book by Robert Kaplan about the zero. It's called The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero. There is a note to the reader in the front suggesting that the book should not be too intellectually threatening to anyone who has had high school algebra and geometry. We'll see. I'm on the third chapter, and just about fifteen minutes ago, I stopped reading because I felt a poem coming on.
Here it is: (and the title is the same as my title for this post).
Lovely word to look at, zero ---
like a snake who has eaten lunch
and becomes satisfied but remains open,
casually, to a second meal.
For there to be nothing, there must be
something, which is what a person
means when he or she says, "I feel nothing" ---
clearly a lie.
What he feels is anticipation or recollection,
and she wears her zero like a collar or a halo ---
struggles in its chokehold,
enters its noose and waits.
Either way it accompanies him
with the ominous sound of a gong
or at least the meditative "ohmmmm."
She is not alone as long as she
has the zero --- even if she is in its belly,
having been eaten, and now lies unmoving.
Even then, she fills a hollow space.