Sunday, April 22, 2012

Numerus Abundans

Numerus Abundans
 by Kevin Cahill

He learned to play the lute
when he was forty years old.
That is what they still say,
as if all the years prior had
been little more than a gestation,
a long uneven labor delivered
at length of a childlike surprise.
When he was forty he picked
it up, his fingers gently round
the neck, he felt the heft, the
balance point on his lap, he
searched the fretted reaches
and he plucked sweet notes
like ripe cherries, so they say.

(There is another saying,
“Stupid after forty, always stupid”
but one who learns to play the lute
at forty, such a one is remembered.)

They say Moses lived one hundred
and twenty years – forty years in
Midian, then again in Egypt before
prophesying forty years in the
wilderness. They say the Prophet
whose heavenly name is Ahmed, first
heard God’s voice when he was forty.

Forty is an age of reckoning, we
ask what we have added up to,
what is the sum of all our seasons,
time multiplied by knowledge,
divided by experiences, all of it
subtracted from a veiled number
not yet etched on a lonely stone.
Bountiful numbers – four added
to eight added to twelve added to
sixteen is golden. Ahed means “One”
signifying God – add to it the letter
mîm whose value is forty and you get
Ahmed. Forty steps, the journey from
man to God, near, palpable, infinitely far.

They say there are forty saints, mix
with them and you will disappear.
The marathon wedding feasts of Persia,
the forty pillars gathered at Stonehenge,
the perilous ride above the Great Flood,
Jesus’ satanic trials in the desert, the vigil
at his tomb, the lenten journey to Easter.

Forty, numerus abundans,
once imbued with the miraculous
the coincident, and the prophetic,
now quarantined in convertibles, elided
in sterile surgeries, curated on Facebook.
So it is good to remember what they say,
they say that when he was forty,
he learned to play the lute…
it means a lot.

2/`9 2009

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