The God Of Numbers
My mother once had a job measuring penises —
penises that belonged to men whose chromosomes
were askew. “The trouble,” she said,
“is that when I went to measure them, they’d grow!”
I picture her pulling a wooden ruler
from a pocket of her white lab coat.
How hard we try to break the world down,
make sense of it. How steadily it resists.
My friend David, an astrophysicist,
had a job counting the clouds of dust around stars,
an assignment that, in my mind,
put him in an echelon of angels
just above the ones who number grains of sand.
There’s something comforting about inventory,
futile as it may be, the act of assessment
itself a form of care. I like to imagine a God
who rises before dawn, takes out the stone tablets,
and starts to tally the individual hairs on each head,
the number of breaths we’ve taken in the night,
who counts the cilia shooting our cells
through the dark galaxies of our bodies
just before he gets back to work
turning out the next tornado
or reaching down to give the tectonic plates
another good, hard shake.
Did she know
there was more to life
than lions licking the furred
ears of lambs,
fruit trees dropping
their fat bounty,
the years droning on
Too much quiet
is never a good sign.
Isn’t there always
beneath the surface?
But what could she say?
The larder was full,
and they were beautiful,
their bodies new
as the day they were made.
Each morning the same
flowers broke through
the rich soil, the birds sang,
again, in perfect pitch.
It was only at night,
when they lay together in the dark,
that it was almost palpable —
the vague sadness, unnamed.
— call it what you will. What a relief
to feel the weight
fall into her palm. And after,
not to pretend anymore
that the terrible calm