Numbers by David Moolten

As the Lord commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the wilderness...

He doesn’t open his raincoat like French doors
to a self-fulfilling reverie,
but reaching for the sky or at least its handles
on the subway
exposes enough, the skin
on his forearm thin as foreskin, as parchment
as his cuff slides back, any tattoo
mildly tasteless, graffiti on the temple.
Just a number, this one counts
for more like a combination
to the vault of the past, then all their eyes
subtracted as if he mattered less,
a scar’s coefficient, a dull figure
now less abstract. Stop after stop,
he redefines exodus like that sinkhole
in the desert where the prophet made God
unfasten the earth and everything
no one does vanishes in the calm
beneath the roar of the train.
David Moolten‘s most recent book, Primitive Mood (2009), won the T. S. Eliot Award from the Truman State University Press. He lives & writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.