Fred Chappell


The money appears as jittery fireflies
Her black screen has netted. They suspend
A moment within their small abyss;
They tell their little story and go away.
Her computer circumspectly peeps, displays
New constellations of number without end,
Mint-green and cool and dry,
As fleeting and irrevocable as a kiss.

What an ardent gossip it is, this sleek machine!
Nothing but rumors of money the livelong day.
It tells her everything but where the money is,
Or if it really exists. Probably
It doesn't exist. It's only Business,
Something you have to take on faith to mean
Something: a ghost, like PERKINS, P T, whose name
Appears before her in letters of unnatural flame.

And isn't this the truth no one is telling?
The people don't exist, nor even the money.
Nothing is out there but the boxes trilling
To one another, and their solitary tenders who
Provide the numbers and then wipe them away.
It must be truer that numbers alone
Exist, and everything else is an observant machine
That registers digits the Number God has sown
Upon the limitless midnight and the measureless day.

Fred Chappell, Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1995.