On card after card he sees it.

Along with a harsh identity photograph

And his preposterous signature,

A black line struggling into a name.

The face is Irish, and his name.

And even some of the wallet cards,

The printer prayer to St. John Neumann,

Bohemian bishop in round red cap;

But numbers have no nationality.

They cross frontiers at will.

A girl I know isn’t a number to me.

And yet somewhere she is, an ordering

Of digits, a life on file we all have.

Everywhere the stamp of nine numbers.

The calm clerk never blinks an eye

At the sight of her, pushes a button

And gathers information for the towers

Of the future, the ivory silos of the west

Where facts fit into place.

The vast gadgetry that hums all night

In the basements of Manhattan

Feeds on numbers, passes them to us.

They never send a dozen roses

Or light holy candles, but make decisions.

Find secret markets, win chess games.

And fight the wars to come.

They breathe a blue bureaucracy to life.

We think, and we are wrong.

We are the life of nine numbers.

There is no crystal cortex

Chopping thoughts to flute music,

Prometheus is a small man behind a curtain.

We hope for the perfect enemy to fight

And find a night-guard sitting in a green light.

In the end is the number

And the number is nothing. Zeros die in space.

Wisdom flows from God, to us.

Articles by Lawrence Dugan

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