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In the beginning, there was no number
one, not as the ancients fathomed it.
To be numbered, language needed two
or more, taken as one. A conversation.
At two, we were just beginning to speak
to them, and to the others, this one, that.
Every voice, a little song. I am told,
when I first heard music, I heard no
numbers, then I did. I listened close
to count the footsteps in my fourths, fifths,
the odd sums that could not be broken
and be a music still. They moved me.
The many numbers in any one, the one
rapture in the many, speechless and alone.


Long ago I cried. I spat. I breathed.
The shock of arrival kicked my heart
to life and the will to make it known.
Everybody suffers. And it is good
to know, when I look at your face,
I see a scorch of blood beneath the surface.
Long ago a teacher taught me to read
in each the occasion of its fate. She
said it would make me more patient,
sentient, kind, less vulnerable to anger.
And so, I did. I died. I died again.
When I was little and love leaned in,
I was not prepared. My second shock
was this. The stifled cry, my second word.


To the face inside my face, I ask,
where is the light that beat you all those years.
Where the little plastic phonograph,
the toy car, the lion with one eye.
Back when I woke to my missing half,
I could hear down the hall in the night:
a spoon, a bowl, the chime of a hunger
that never goes away. My father said,
if I chant the number one in my head,
the doors of dream will open. It did.
Once. Why is it our peaceful number
is likewise the most paranoid and dull.
Save when it is canted, sung, at one
with its passing, one minus one minus one.