Spr/Sum 04

from Primer


O as a Beginning

The sperm cell is the first zero. The vagina the second. Wait—before you floated in the placenta (the third), your mother floated and your father floated in theirs, and before them their mothers and their fathers. . . . You get dizzy, as in that moment in Citizen Kane when Kane pauses after leaving his wife's bedroom and image after image recedes in mirror reflecting mirror. Another thing about DNA: if space curves, so does time. Not that anything will be the same twice. Physics works because the margin of difference between two entities or events is always more than zero. Look forward when you cross a threshold. Make a good impression on the security camera. Go from there.



Compass cocked at measure, plow lining soil. Only so much can be marked off at one time: the tiniest bacterium can give you an eye-full. Then the initial surprise settles in. You remember which right turn takes you to the video store, which month the Pleiades kites to zenith. A perfection of sorts, which is to say not really a perfection; maybe a wholeness of sorts, which is to say. . . . Say it: ey or uh. Calling out or covering a blank. You’re here. Something or someone else is there.



Regeneration? It comes and goes. Some nights you lie alert as an owl, asking "who? who?" as you think of next week. Others, you nod off before the re-run of Three's Company. Nietzsche said that you start like a camel going into the desert, then become a lion, then a child. Biologists go further and key genetics, your masterboard in place as soon as the nuclear material radiates. You're not surprised when your days become like a video game. You give up and whoever's next in line gets a character like yours, or you put in more money and continue.



With some particles, you can tell where they are or how fast they're moving, but never both. The voice you hear when you think, does it always come from the same spot graphed by DNA and past election results, or is it mumbling on with no way to predict what it will tell you next? Each moment: a skewed cross-hairs. Buying a jacket on sale at Old Navy, turning off the AM radio—so far, you've ended up with neither the exploited nor the exploiters, victims nor executioners. You're always somewhere in between.


Mark Cunningham received an MFA from the University of Virginia. His poems have appeared in The Prose Poem: An International Journal and the Bellevue Review; a larger selection, of poems on parts of the body, is on the Mudlark web-site. The poems here come from a series of poems on numbers and letters, currently titled "Primer."