A Poem by Neruda


A hand made a number.
It joined one little stone
to another, one thunderclap
to another,
one fallen eagle
to another, one
arrowhead to another,
and then with the patience of granite
the hand
made a double incision, two wounds
and two grooves: and a
number was born.

Then came the numeral two, then
a four;
one hand kept making them all–
the five, the six,
the seven,
the eight, the nine–zeroes
like bird’s eggs,
as rock,
printing the numbers
without wearing away; and inside
that number, another,
and another inside that other,
teeming, inimical,
prolific, acerb,
counting and spawning,
filling mountains, intestines,
gardens, and cellars,
falling from books,
flying over Kansas, Morelia,
blinding us, killing us, covering all:
out of wallets, off tables:
the numbers, the numbers,
the numbers.

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