Lips Long Since Returned to Forest Mulch
The Maya wrote their concept of zero as a resting oval with small curved lines, one on top two at the bottom, coming together in points at either end. Three shorter lines rise within like eyelashes or tiny sails.
The glyph is a leaf, a seed, an eye but not only. Something about the image escapes when I approach, hides in a region I will never see. Imagination loses me in canyons of mossy stone.
Hull and sails gone to secret in a place so inland from oceans outlier to deciphering minds centuries before sailing vessels crossed our horizons: symbol of emptiness filled.
Pale blue washes my dream and that glyph invites me into its home. I am both eager and afraid. When I enter my skin glistens with gold dust oblivious to market worth.
Expressing zero, the Maya didn’t mean nothing, an idea that baffled Europeans as late as the renaissance. A void neither native to its vigesimal place nor absence waiting for something to happen.
Like the dot representing one or bar claiming five, this small basket boat had its work cut out along the Long Count or Calendar Round: endless legacies of birth and death.
In my dream there is always someone I know well and someone I meet for the first time. Familiarity and fear shoot their arrows into the six regions of my heart.
They etch themselves on my skin like Nazi numbers or tracer flares from dictates claiming to comfort those taught to believe that wars end war, our love is unnatural, learning isn’t for girls or some humans prefer poverty.
I ask myself if mathematical brilliance kept the Maya safe from storms, fed crops or helped cacao beans journey from tree to rich brown liquid filling clay mugs raised to lips long since returned to forest mulch.
We are drawn to examine a weighted base and three flickers of hope. I want to reach out and take this zero between my fingers’ broken feathers, follow its burning light to questions unanswered then and now.
Until we inhale the air they breathed into our own lungs, unless we can feel what they felt walking toward the sacrificial bench, the code may be broken and broken again but will resist letting us in.
– Margaret Randall –