Jeffrey Thomson

innumerable ones

How to count? Begin with one, or n + 1
where n is the number of ants in a colony,
and 1 is you looking over your own shoulder,
looking into the earth, driving a stick down
into the mound like a gifted chimp, pulling it out
to count the inscrutable bodies, huge headed
warriors sawing the wood. Where n is bacteria
and 1 is your colon, the wealth of E. coli
colonizing and shifting upriver, where n
is the burger you ate yesterday and 1 is you
heaving into the sink and falling back
wracked with fever. Where n is brine shrimp
and 1 the stink they make on a hot day,
the light above the Great Salt Lake gone flat
and gauzy. Where n is the caribou cresting
across the Porcupine in the Yukon and n²
the mosquitoes that blind them—eyes jammy
with crushed bodies—and drive them mad.
Where 1 is the Cessna and the rifle,
where 1 is the bullet and the carcass
resting on the tundra’s mossy sponge.

Jeffrey Thomson
Innumerable Ones first appeared in Indiana Review.