Explaining Zero Sum from the Snowdrop Hotel
We have blind spots.
Five times at least I’ve asked you to explain parallax;
you say ‘zero sum’ is meaningless to you.
High in the Alps, I’ve held out for this room
against Americans whose sleep, now, will toss uneasily
through the trundle of lorries – the main road;
beyond it, trains clanking in from Italy.
My gain = their loss; that’s zero sum.
My window overhangs a stream, high on meltwater,
whirling past under an agate sky. At evening,
an invisible blackbird pitches his notes clear
across, until the song seems to draw
its phrases from the river’s rush and welter.
If, with each new tune, the water lost energy,
became less abundant until it thinned to a trickle
while the blackbird voiced ever more opulent
torrents of sound – that would be zero sum.
Or if, by its acrobatics, by sheer verve, the river
so daunted and engulfed the bird’s inventions
that his song became mere cheep and whistle –
that would be zero sum.
But the blackbird opens his throat, his song
bubbles and chuckles with all the river that is in it;
and the music returns to the water such vibrations
that the river becomes infused by song,
embodying, in endless tumble to the sea,
that sound and its own.
from Stitching the Dark: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2005), Carole Satyamurti 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher