Over and on

To have an even number of passages
you need an odd number of transitions—
life’s funny that way.
Even and odd, over and on,
it’s a mystery how it all hangs together:
the way tension works,
the way release comes,
the way these rhythms are at the heart of us all.

Consider square roots of negative numbers
(an impossibility, but stay with me on this one)
called ‘imaginary’ numbers, ‘i’ for short.
(Catch that—now they’re personal.)
But the biggest surprise is the concept of nothing: nada, zippo, nil.
Zero is neither even nor odd, nor over nor on,
it is more “what-it-is” than “what-it-is-not.”

And what it is, is emptiness and doubt,
a breath so deep that the pain has no release
and becomes its own expanding universe, while you,
you’re just left hanging there by your own diminishing beliefs,
so that you become (over and on, on and over)
an odd looking for an even or an even looking for an odd,
or an ‘i’, whichever happens to come first.

If mathematics is the fundamental descriptor of existence, shouldn’t you be able to relate it to emotions? If cyclic movement governs ever act in the universe, from the twang of the elemental strings that make up the constituent parts of atoms on up to the movement of galaxy clusters, shouldn’t this be reflected in the way we relate to each other?

By the way, the original impetus for this poem, although it turned much more serious, was the humerus  Québécois expression: chaque torchon trouve sa guenille, or, to each cloth its rag. A ‘torchon’ (a ‘male’ word) is a cleaning cloth, while a ‘guenille’ (a ‘female’ word) is a total rag, the filthy, worn, dirty one hidden beneath your sink for the worst messes.

Thank you for reading Over and on. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry

5 responses to “Over and on

  1. John, I adored this poem – ’tis one of my favourites so far!
    I teach at a Montessori school and the way we teach the concept of zero, is just like that. We say, “Can you give me zero hugs?” They pause to consider, go to hug then stop themselves.
    Must be an interesting place, your brain, thank you for letting me visit!

    • Forty, thank you so much for noticing this poem and being so kind towards it! I had posted it close to Alas For We Who Remain and I realized it was probably not getting noticed. But it is also a poem that I very much enjoyed writing. So thank you very much…I appreciate your kindness and sensitivity to it.

      • There is no rhyme or reason why some things tend to get overlooked, it’s strange. I try to read everything of yours as it’s always worth my time. I don’t follow many people, those I do, I do so for a reason. So a big thank you back to you!

  2. Lyn Tolar

    Humorous, symbolically speakingJ