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

Sponsor this poem

Would you like to sponsor this poem? Find out how here.

Recordings

Carole Satyamurti

Carole Satyamurti Downloads

1Dear Departed

£0.89

2Varanasi

£0.89

3Sathyaji

£0.89

4Chesil Beach

£0.89

5Yellow

£0.89

6Duende

£0.89

7Explaining Zero Sum from the Snowdrop Hotel

£0.89

8Mouthfuls

£0.89

9My First Cup of Coffee

£0.89

10Intensive Care

£0.89

11Broken Moon

£0.89

12Girls Awake, Asleep

£0.89

13Coat for an Undergraduate

£0.89

14Visiting Duncan

£0.89

15Night Harvest

£0.89

16Day Trip

£0.89

17Ourstory

18My Wilderness

£0.89

19Spring Offensive

£0.89

20Sitting for Manou

£0.89

21Hands

£0.89

22Memorial

£0.89

23The Night I Bit George Dubya

£0.89

24Terror

£0.89

25The Legend of the Dead Soldier

£0.89

26The Book Market, Baghdad

£0.89

27I’d So Much Rather

£0.89

28The Anthropology of Escalators

£0.89

29Here and There

£0.89

30Life on Mir

£0.89

31The Day I Knew I Wouldn’t Live For Ever

£0.89

32That Was Then, This Is Now

£0.89

33Mirrored

£0.89

34The Seven Stages of Decrepitude

£0.89

35All Venice is a Boat

£0.89

36If Time is This Never

£0.89

37House of Words

£0.89

38Second Chance

£0.89

39This. And This

£0.89

40Countdown to Midnight

£0.89

Books by Carole Satyamurti