Spring 2013

THE RHIZOME AS A FIELD OF BROKEN BONES - new poetry Wings Press, San Antonio, Texas

, by Margaret Randall


Lips Long Since Returned to Forest Mulch

The Maya wrote their concept of zero
as a resting oval with small curved lines,
one on top two at the bottom,
coming together in points at either end.
Three shorter lines
rise within like eyelashes or tiny sails.

The glyph is a leaf, a seed, an eye but not only.
Something about the image escapes
when I approach,
hides in a region I will never see.
Imagination loses me
in canyons of mossy stone.

Hull and sails gone to secret
in a place so inland from oceans
outlier to deciphering minds
centuries before sailing vessels
crossed our horizons:
symbol of emptiness filled.

Pale blue washes my dream
and that glyph invites me
into its home.
I am both eager and afraid.
When I enter my skin glistens
with gold dust oblivious to market worth.

Expressing zero, the Maya didn’t mean nothing,
an idea that baffled Europeans
as late as the renaissance.
A void neither native to its vigesimal place
nor absence
waiting for something to happen.

Like the dot representing one
or bar claiming five,
this small basket boat had its work cut out
along the Long Count
or Calendar Round:
endless legacies of birth and death.

In my dream there is always someone
I know well
and someone I meet for the first time.
Familiarity and fear
shoot their arrows
into the six regions of my heart.

They etch themselves on my skin like Nazi numbers
or tracer flares from dictates
claiming to comfort those
taught to believe that wars end war,
our love is unnatural, learning isn’t for girls
or some humans prefer poverty.

I ask myself if mathematical brilliance
kept the Maya safe from storms,
fed crops or helped cacao beans
journey from tree to rich brown liquid
filling clay mugs
raised to lips long since returned to forest mulch.

We are drawn to examine a weighted base
and three flickers of hope.
I want to reach out and take this zero
between my fingers’ broken feathers,
follow its burning light to questions
unanswered then and now.

Until we inhale the air they breathed
into our own lungs,
unless we can feel what they felt
walking toward the sacrificial bench,
the code may be broken and broken again
but will resist letting us in.>