the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2007



Victoria Hallerman

The Number Line

Squatting on the left edge, zero
was scary, but you could count away from it fast
and when you got past nine
borrow it, to make another number.
It was useful, the way fragile and dangerous things
often are, an egg
or a bomb.

Four eggs in a basket
take away three:
one’s left. Then

Miss Bamberger proclaimed the minus numbers.
With zero in the center, who could be safe?
Five eggs from four
leaves one, a ghost egg.
A couple of summers and I grew
finally to love the beautiful
negatives: —1 —2 —3
out to where time ends, reflecting

like inverse swans on water
their solid counterparts.
Spirits from math’s underworld, they were getting us ready
for x and for y,
beyond these the daily
unknowns of debt
or outright disappearance.


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