Number and None


There will be a number and then none. 
Let the spider count the threads,
the lark read from a score, each
improvising at indicated points.

There will be a number large to
spread the commas of its sum
over the edges of the paper,
across the floor and up the wall,

a number so immense no universe
contains iotas to answer to its count,
yet zero shall swallow it whole,
watching from an empty window.

It is said: "Zero is not a number,"
but that is the easy solution.

The royal leaf remains dumb,
huge beyond benefit, sucking 
the sap of the tree of the sun,
lovely beyond conception,
hot as a smoking revolver.

We are dealing with one thing alone;
a thing said before which
need not be said again.

It was never true that each
generation must resay it,
one formulation is enough,
proverbial or numeric,
encompassing its own exceptions.

     I think if we do not give
     it a name we can better
     take it quietly for granted.
Evoke instead the fantasy
that streams in the blood
alongside iron and air,
call it to witness
the muse of victory
      showering leaves
from the wreath of Heaven.

Draw her with crayons that
melt into puddles of wax
on hot sidewalk - 
               Reflex Blue 
and Grammarian's Gold.

In the absence of definition,
it seems an impossible task
turning number into none,
but without excess of thought
it's easily done, though
reason soon forgets what
reason has no bearing on.

Not defined as a problem
it presents no interesting
point of engagement
     to those seeking 
something deep to ponder.
Zero is without depth.

Where metaphor seeks to originate
rather than to replicate,
a different species of light
refects from the cross-hatches
of the weave, agreeing to
inhabit words for the length
of time it takes to write them.

All words are empty.
Understand that first.

Between number and none
dwells a mathematics
devoid of equation,
algebra without
the quantity of X;
geometry with neither 
sphere nor surface.


Ambiguity is lack of decision,
vacillation between poles
of potential meaning.
Where intentional, 
thought attempts 
to ring clear of dialectic
and evoke mystery
desiring no clarification, 
acting without motive.
To further confound
the laws of evidence,
there is no lack of
open subject to which
open predicate applies,
as in "You suck!" or "I am."

Statement selects opposition
as wind selects a sail
to propel over the course
of undifferentiated waves. 

Reason is able to manipulate
the shape of skin in 
     service of desire,
as can all things able to touch 
and feel touch in return;
able to harm and be harmed.

Nor is the harm the
harm of a moment.
Capable of bearing
livid scars 
     as well as
sacrificial scratches,
reason is a candidate for
compassion from all
human and beyond human,
a tender antenna for
stroking the surface of stars.

The certainty to speak
of number and none, 
as of a favorite fossil,
becomes the quality
by which it is possible 
to say with conviction
that the milk of lions is
suitable to cream coffee 
brewed from stones,
in the presence of no
argument to the contrary.

But what it is we could
love enough to die for
must be articulated,
and, if not essentially
amenable to reason,
be justified by art
Perfectly moral by our own lights,
how can we doubt ourselves?
Can the immoralist doubt himself? 
It's obvious he cannot
unless his stance is moral.

Ambiguity marks the edges
of the cliffs and precipices
which shift and rearrange
so that something to die for
becomes a reason to live.
   This is felt to be so
and feeling must suffice.

Number and none estimate capacity
but cannot provide the heart 
with magnitudes worth counting.

In lack of such magnitude,
we make problems
where there are none
and demonstrate them.
to living tissue in fire.
There are worse tricks.
We learn them all.
Without evil there is
no good to be gained.


It's hard to believe
it's all for the good 
but less involved
consideration will
convince reason
only a disposition
to habitual obedience
prevents release
from archaic ideals.

What is dearer 
     to the tongue,
connected by its 
root to the heart,
than swallowing? 
Fear and love both
prompt a swallow.
We swallow in the
presence of the holy.
Who, in the presence
of problems conjured
by a clash of ideals,
notices this small action,
this semi-voluntary
          undulation of
the alimentary tract,
amplifying a heartbeat?

A satisfying swallow 
exercises heart and soul,
draws phlegm from
the mind which, like
the white of an egg,
provides nourishment
to the hatchable yolk.
What chickens be these?

Solomon found nothing
more appropriate than that
we should swallow what
gives us pleasure & take
our comfort in what
falls readily to hand.
Distressing oneself with
vain imaginings was low
on his list of priorities.

The motive of crime,
what is called crime,
is desire to ingest
what is forbidden by 
strictures grounded on 
a variety of conflicting
systems; prohibition of
something near to hand
that would give comfort.

It makes sense to be
a martyr to a cause
you believe in enough
to swallow over­ to 
swallow hard and often.
Better yet to quiet the
mind allowing new
creations to enter
from thin, sweet air.
It's the promise of freedom 
that proves so alluring, 
not its consequence.
Why should freedom be
situated entirely in the future?
There is freedom now
or it does not exist.

But we know it exists
if only by the shred
of evidence felt when
tongue touches heart 
in the sacrament of swallowing. 


Motion, not metaphor.
Of breath and balance
reason cannot partake
except in speculation.

But that is neither
here nor there. We
do not come to the
table to fast, nor
pour wine to admire
the color. Bouquet
    serves only to 
whet the appetite.

We are here to step
outside ourselves
and become one with
the meal through the
mystery of digestion.


That which the sun touches
     is within the sun,
   and what is within
the sun is the sun.
     It is odd to say sky 
   when we mean sun
as though some 
   figurative space
separates sun from shine,
assuming by our words 
          a distance 
as between two objects,
by virtue of which 
     both things 
appear to become,
        creating number 
where there is none,
            other than one, which by itself 
               is not a number since numbers
               are items of relationship.
          One is a noun. Two is an adjective.

A thing unique to itself
has never been seen
in the fields of time
and multiple collusion.

Does this enlarge our thesis; 
the one aforementioned
       which seems so
improvident to name?
Yes, to the degree that
a thesis may rightly
contain information 
about what it is not to
avoid misapprehension.

So the question arises:
is there any substance
other than that which
arises through relationship?
Do not say "no"
     but leave it be.
That way lies ontogeny
and a multiplicity
of verbal calesthentics
confusing number with none.

Content is the crux; 
we seek a peripheral
conjugation of essence,
more aptly divined
by ellipsis than by trope . . .

How is this stick to be
stacked in the woodpile,
by length or crosswise?
Or should it be put
in the box with the
       sulphur matches?
If so, is it self igniting 
or does it require an
anterior abrasive to strike?

It is not the great
motionless whirlwind,
that breath closer to
the beginning but
not the beginning
(begging your pardon)
that concerns us here.
It is nothing very
great at all, nor small.
To sing such a song
as this about it all
(make no mistake,
all lines obedient 
to form are song)
is not to instruct
so much as to remain
and dwell a moment
outside the space between 
what are called stars,
free of the pratfalls
of time and perspective.


You gave something
away once without
knowing its value.
Now you want it back
but don't know who
or how to ask for it.
Only half of you
wants it back­ the 
other half abhors it.

Turn one eye away
from the sun - let it
roll around in the
dark and I'll make
you a present of
your lost treasure
if it's anything you
ever trusted to my 
hands for safekeeping.

If it is not among
the faculties with 
which I was 
blessed at birth,
I'll never miss it 
nor count it as one 
of my own items
as I set them on a
ledge to be counted.

As flower petals
are plucked with
alternating fears
and wishes, none
and number spin
on this ledge like 
a coin with a single 
face of which the 
flip side is absence.
How does it stop short
of the solopsist's cage
to say that your eye
and the eye of the sun
are one and the same,
co-conflagrational and
utterly non-unique?
Hypothetically, you
may choose to agree
without once thinking
that the idea could
warm the blood, much
less catch fire and burn.

Thunder is not an accident.
It was purposely provided
to call your attention to
the desirability of shelter.
Its function is to frighten.
Otherwise it would not
be thunder, just a loud
clapping of the air. 

The thesis posits no 
singular perceiver,
acknowledges the eye
of the many and 
the eye of the one,
prefering but not
insisting upon plurality.
There are other ways
which also profit.

Knowing this, choice
becomes possible but
only insofar as it is 
perfectly impossible. 
A nice corner to paint 
yourself in and out of. 
But it is not a problem.

Straight lines occur
        only in nature.

The best guess is
the closest estimate
that can be made
concerning the speed
of a model with no
known dimensions.
We know 
          about light,
 describe it endlessly. 

Blink, swallow, believe.
It is of little concern
that we know nothing 
when it is all so nicely balanced 
by knowing everything. 
Number and none combine,
gestate and produce mathematics. 

Mathematics parents its
subject by rudimentary 
parthenogenesis . . .
vision out of the whorls 
and vortices of sight,
light if you will.
But it is not light we
need to know about,
which, in any case,
cannot be known.

There is not one
among us who does
not step in and out
of time at will; 
not one who is
with the cliffs
and runnels of
absolute darkness,
their dire depth.

     There is not one of us who
lacks the strength of ten 
in respect to certain beliefs,
     nor the strength of twenty 
in contravening those principles
  when the faith betrays.

All rules but one may be broken:
that rule by which the other
rules are bound or loosened.
That this rule cannot be broken
is not a problem. It is a fulcrum.
          The modes of hyperbole 
cringe in their clouds retracting  
their gold  slung rays at the 
approach of the thin brown thought 
which is too tight to express.

But it is not a problem.
Neither need surrender 
its coin of currency 
because of the other.
There is freedom from
mere personal salvation 
in their respectful parity.

The diffuse and the
concentrate occupy
the same space 
but the clap and the peal 
     of a struck bell
are different in kind;
empty air contains
one but allows no
passage to the other.

There is no need
to extrapolate this
to infinity unless
one intends to
     create a problem
where there is none.
Limited space would
seem to be the one
invariable condition
of anything eternal.


There will be a number
and then none. Let the
fire be fed from
the charred stick
that stirs the ash;
from the name and
not the substance,
from the nomenclature 
of the category of names
which is self inclusive.
There is no name 
beyond naming.
The vision of dreams
is not other than sight
in the waking world;
both are seen things.
What is beyond them
is beyond vision.
Has life need of light
and a name? If not it 
would be hard to
distinguish from death

but it is not necessary
to distinguish­ it is
not a problem unless
one chooses to fall
flat before a stone
and offer up sacrifice
hoping to curry favor
by misunderstanding.

This would not be the 
hope which is said to
spring eternal but it 
would be some of the
substance of the hope.
All which is present is
present to the eye, the
taste, the touch and the
electricity that crackles
and flows around the heart
bringing the gift of terror:

the charge of fear up
and down the sockets
which freezes the tiger
in mid-leap, stops the
sun in its circle and
enleadens clouds so
that they drop to earth
and become mountains -
this is the full treasure.
The fear that resolves
into absence of fear
which is tranquility.

How shall we content 
ourselves with the
chill of mild fright,
the chatter of small
invented problems
as they seek to carve
stone steps out of
recollections of water,
seek to divide the circle
into units obedient to 
the axioms of the angle?
There is no fragrance
in the clash of opposites,
only in their union;
no justice in retribution,
only problems, problems

where there is no space
for problems, neither in
the detailed edifice of
time and place nor in
the shapeless subjective
center of revolution
around which things
appear to arc and orbit
and, in a sense, to shine.

Despite these conditions,
accepted or rejected,
nothing at all is different
than it was before nor will
subsequent transformations
be affected one iota.
Damnation remains the
favored pastime of devils
and the holy dwell at
their pleasure in radiance.


The brain is a bell;
in its folds the static
clap and chiming 
tug the threads
and strings which
animate the meat.
Marvelous if true,
but no truer than
theories of synapse

and nomenclature
of nerve and electro-
magnetic resistance.
The belly is the
seat of the mind
until the belly is
replaced with a
bladder or a bucket
and then the mind
moves into the lung
or a nutlike node in
the hollow of the throat
but never into the heart
which is the seat of
hunger and of hope.
When the heart is gone,
hunger moves into the 
wrist; hope to the knee.

When both heart and
         knee are gone, 
hope returns to the sky,
that flat and risky
line between the plate
of the eye and the 
nearest overhanging
cloud, sun or star.
Hunger sinks into the soil.

Red is most red where 
it merges with blue 
into purple. Color has
no discretion, is known
to blend with tone in
a species of audibility
or to convivialize with
emotions and partake
     of their nature.

There are natures
     within natures 
but for one to arise, 
you must die to the other.

This shift of subjectivity
is not a nuance, 
nor is there 
a possibility of it
being partial­ 
you do not take 
a bit of this 
and a bit of that, 
but surrender all 
        and receive
nothing in recompense.
"I" is outmoded and
another "I" resides
behind the blue gray eyes
     or the black,
also to be replaced.

     Of all things born of 
 the clock and the ruler, 
this is the most confusing.
And it is a problem.
Of all things, this gives
rise to most conjecture;
not a transformation,
     it is a replacement. 
The pages of the wind
riffle and the words
fall off the sheets 
     into the sea, 
          which gives
the sea its sound­
a sound like wind but 
lacking wind's focus 
and precision; the groan
of utterly open vowels.

The words of the sea 
are not the words 
of the wind although 
they appear to converse.
Yet neither comprehends
nor profits from the 
discourse of the other.
When this becomes
insupportable, it storms.


Who will make promises
for the moon or give
assurance for the sun?
We have been told what
things to believe and
believing makes them so,
so long as they do duty
for the thin line of sky
between number and none.

Yet none of these things
would be problematic were
we able to transform rather 
than quit one truth for another.

This is the very root
of the problem,
as such things go,
that it is thus, 
and not otherwise.
Beware of any who
say they've solved it,
for they are either
deluded or they lie.
In either case they
have not grasped
the diverse possibilites
of simple mortality
and squander their fear
on ineffectual anodynes.

Let it suffice that the
subject of this thesis
defies analysis, 
in that analysis 
     is its toy, 
          its bauble, 
               its regiment
  of small wood soldiers
lined on a window ledge.

It could not be visualized,
not so far as a quick eyeful,
retreating as it arrives,
clad in a clap of thunder
with a bracelet of raging seas, 
silencing all of the clatter
with its innate quiet,
the very hive of sound.

It is not to be discovered 
in the act mending at the 
same moment it ravels,
nor is it able to surrender
itself with a tight fist
and a faceplate of steel
in the lap of a virgin
like a common unicorn.

No cavern can contain
the spark of it which
may be seen flickering
from a hole gnawed
          in the wallboard,
gleaming without conscience.

That it happens without
consciousness or notice
is not the lesser part of 
its charm and challenge.
That it fluctuates between
a given and a gone assures
a sweetness equal to its 
absence for which reason it
is often confused with love.

And love it does and is,
with cool detatchment and
lack of passion which
allows it entry into both
the dream and the lack
of dream, a tight splice
between number and none
removed from the postures 
and antics of transformation.

Nothing need be said
although saying is bound
to it as to a Maypole by
cords of braided strands,
where speech leaves the
mouth and hits flat 
against the slant wedge,
thicker than sky,
where souls assemble.
It is in the mouth to smile 
and to swallow­ in 
the eye to blink and be 
dazzled. It is in the mind 
to believe and in the soul to
slip like a threadbare ghost
between number and none
seeking what might sustain it
in the poverty between riches.


Robert Hunter