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.