A poet whose work I much admire is A. E. Stallings -- born in the US, in Georgia, but now living in Greece. This poem -- a sonnet -- deals with the paradox that nothing is something -- as with the integer zero and with the absence of a loved one. The poem was written for her father who taught statistics at Georgia State University.
Sine Qua Non by A. E. Stallings
Your absence, father, is nothing. It is naught—
The factor by which nothing will multiply,
The gap of a dropped stitch, the needle's eye
Weeping its black thread. It is the spot
Blindly spreading behind the looking glass.
It is the startled silences that come
When the refrigerator stops its hum,
And crickets pause to let the winter pass.
Your absence, father, is nothing—for it is
Omega's long last O, memory's elision,
The fraction of impossible division,
The element I move through, emptiness,
The void stars hang in, the interstice of lace,
The zero that still holds the sum in place.
"Sine Qua Non" is found in Stallings' collection Hapax (Northwestern University Press, 2006) and also in the anthology Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics (AK Peters/CRC Press, 2008).
A wonderful collection of Stallings' poems is available at the PoetryFoundation website -- and more about this poet and her work is may be found here at her at Stallings' website.
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