(for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach)
He was born to wonder about numbers.
He balanced fives against tens
and made them sleep together
and love each other.
He took sixes and sevens
and set them wrangling and fighting
over raw bones.
He woke up twos and fours
out of baby sleep
and touched them back to sleep.
He mananged eights and nines,
gave them prophet beards,
marched them into mists and mountains.
He added all the numbers he knew,
multiplied them by new-found numbers
and called it a prayer of Numbers.
For each of a million cipher silences
he dug up a mate number
for a candle light in the dark.
He knew love numbers, luck numbers,
how the sea and the stars
are made and held by numbers.
He died from the wonder of numbering.
He said good-by as if good-by is a number.
SOURCE: “Number Man” appears in The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg (Harcourt, 1970), available at Amazon.com.
SOURCE: Poetry (October 1947).
IMAGE: J.S. Bach postcard, available at ebay.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He received three Pulitzer Prizes, two for poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln.