What brought them together were gifts without number,
but binary digits enticed them to stay.
A system that each had discovered in childhood
cemented their fate at an offbeat café.
For her it was somewhat like playing piano.
He would make loops as if stringing small beads.
Both had departed the realm of addition,
since shapes, such as hands, had geometry’s needs.
While nursing their coffee and ordering breakfast,
asking more questions and ordering tea,
learning how deeply their temperaments nested,
each counted on fingers to ten-twenty-three.
Of course people have only so many digits.
Removing their shoes would be gauche, even here,
and even for souls who are clever and quirky.
He drummed on the table: “Ellipsis, my dear.”
Ellipsis? Why, yes—they continued on paper,
by phone and by auto, by train and by air,
till numbers approached, overtook, and divided
what seemed an ethereal, cosmic affair.
But while it continued, they often went walking
by sunlight or moonlight to see what they’d find.
They hung out with friends and they hid out together.
They listened to music, they cooked and they dined.
And strangely enough, though they had the occasion,
never did either one count (while alive)
on fingers and toes all the way to one million,
forty-eight thousand, five-seventy-five.
from Rattle #58, Winter 2017
[ download audio]
Claudia Gary: “I’ve been writing poems since the second grade and music since my teens. In both cases, the process—whether begun in joy or in misery—is an exploration. If I discover nothing, I’ve failed. Mathematics enriches all of my work and has a certain romance of its own. ‘In Binary’ is based on a true story that takes this romance a step further.” ( web)