Why does a number
make us so numb? BRRR!
Or so we often say,
but what is most vacuous about a number
may also be what most comforts us:
One is lonely when it fails to be
one breast to touch, one friend to talk to,
one large pizza with everything, one perfect morning
all gone, sucked into the chill of outer space,
leaving only one, the only one, or only two
(worse than one we've lost BOTH breasts!)
or only three (no Father, no Son, no Holy Spirit)
or only any number, even a trillion only multiplying
But one is a safe, dry, place compared to one
Holocaust, one murder, one politician, one
psychiatrist, one carcass, one fingernail scraping
down a blackboard, one more burden
on a bent back, and if you say ONE MORE WORD
one more loss, one more fear give me
a mere one, a simple two, let me spend a lifetime
curled up in abstraction, in a warm room
where nothing ever happens.
Sometimes the choice is difficult: Would you prefer
one to one angry spouse? Would you prefer
a one and only to a one and only person with
good hair and fast wit, but bad breath?
Would you prefer two unreliable friends
to two. Would you prefer zero to zero dollars
in your wallet?
Always the choice is difficult. One offers
one no game. Even one Holocaust is better than no game,
no possibility of winning or losing, no goals, no freedoms,
nothing to overcome, just one and perhaps one's weary awareness
Always the choice is difficult. One breast to touch
is a fatty lump (concupiscent curd)
with a limited repertoire,
a distraction from the pure
one that one is.
One alone is zero turned sideways.
Note: That is, sometimes pure abstraction is a relief from unwanted
specifics. Sometimes specifics are a relief from lifeless abstraction.
In the last stanza, "concupiscent curd" is a throwaway
allusion to a Wallace Stevens image (of ice cream, among other things)
in his poem, "The Emperor of Ice Cream."