Kiss Over Zero

anything over zero is zero
anything over one is itself

a bed over zero
is a funhouse mirror aimed

at a cloudy sky
a sky and its clouds over zero

a storm over one
is an infinite storm

a night over one
is a kiss over zero

and the minute hand eating its tail
is a red ear on a wet pillow

the memory of laughter
is a lamp over one

one inhales before one sighs
a lamp over zero is zero

the hole in a satin sheet
slowly ate up the yellow

till splitting the hem
the hole was unleashed

like a kiss
a long kiss over zero


Copyright © 2015 by George David Clark. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I teach a course on contemporary poetry in translation and recently one of my students shared an interesting interpretation of a line in Bei Dao. She read ‘over’ as shorthand for ‘divided by,’ and while I wasn’t convinced Dao intended or benefitted from such a resonance (does the Chinese preposition share that mathematical connotation?), both the conceit of division and the difference between math’s equals sign (exact) and metaphor’s ‘is’ (messy) seemed rich to me. Anyway, this gave me a roundabout way of approaching a scene and a feeling that I couldn’t get at directly.”
George David Clark