Wednesday Poem


You’d take it for zero, or nothing,
or the spotless oval your lips make saying it,
as if you blew both yolk and albumen
through its pin-pricked head: the meat
of the word made orotund and Latinate.
It’s like putting your mouth to the smooth
breast of the ocarina, from oca, the goose,
hooting out its fledgling notes.
Unless you seal the gap it’s left, they fall
out, those other o-words, like bubbles
streaming through a soapy blow-hole:
from oblation and obloquy to oxlip and ozone,
and that sneaky Trojan obol,
coin-shaped, it’s true, but spawned
from the spiky Greek of obelus,
the death-mark, dagger or crucifix,
as phallic and obvious, now that you say it,
as that double o in spermatozoon,
which enters by its own locomotion –
the flagellum, its tiny whip and scourge.