Kristie Betts Letter's work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, The North Dakota Quarterly, Washington Square, Passages North, Pangolin Papers and The Southern Humanities Review. Her novel Snow and White was just picked up by KT Literary. She's won several teaching awards for forcing Hamlet on high school seniors, and also plays a mean game of pub trivia.
October 5, 2016
zero = possibility
digits are fingers al gebra means bones femur, spine, phalanges bone-setting into place tens, hundreds, thousandths foot is the length of the king's shoe now, begin with flesh in coupling, your number doubles possibilities become rounder less sharp edges humans conditioned to add and after you add the possibility of absence.
zero = open
you number only when you need loneliness necessitates numbers others never bothered, with no need to invent words for what doesn't concern some found the tangible was enough — imagine — cubits, the length of a man's arm and hand (forgery is a sincere form of flattery) bodies up to measure.
zero = elsewhere
1 is here whole numbers round out beauty / fractions slash / divide when triangles slip into other shapes building slide off their foundations you struggle against 1 as the rule a base from which pyramids rose beneath complex patterns and surface numbers are what lies beneath and give it a name: 0.
zero = absence
endless possibilities tens by tens by tens because everything can be something else multiplied until transformation to rounded wasteland this ungendered number replete with mystery putting bodies back together building on nothing adding one's slashes to rounds of zeros you, the basis of all equations all and nothing.
zero = possibility
Once upon a time, I was falling in distracted, breathless love with the math teacher across the high school hallway. Another math teacher's child fell ill in the middle of the school day, and she asked this English teacher to cover her class. My teaching responsibility consisted of showing a movie about the history of zero, and zero about described the ninth graders' interest level in the film. I, on the other hand, was mesmerized, ignoring the distracted frenzy of ninth graders around me. I came home and wrote the rough draft of the poem "Algebraic" only to dust it off now, a decade later. It serves as a window into exactly how I could quantify my hopefulness with my handsome now-husband math teacher.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published weekly by Glass Poetry Press.
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