Four by Sneha Madhavan-Reese
Is 4 the same 4 for everybody? -- Pablo Neruda, The Book of Questions
My mother draws her four with a right angle;
my father's is pointed on top. My daughter's four,
half the time, is backwards. Her sister signs,
"I just adore four," Big Bird sings, "the number
for me," on an old record, old meaning
from a time when every kid knew how to drop
a needle into a spinning vinyl groove.
Four forces govern all things in the universe.
Carbon's four valence electrons form the basis
for all life: our four limbs and four-chambered
hearts, a four-leafed clover's lucky leaves.
My father shows me how to write the number
four in Malayalam--naalu, a round house
with a curve of smoke escaping. He says
no one uses these characters anymore.