Leveler Poetry Journal
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Irreducible Minimum


Zero puts on its Sunday-go-to-meeting best.

Zero is the enfant terrible of numbers.

Zero has a toothache, leave it alone for awhile,

let it find its bearings, adjust to the temperatures.

You don’t want to get zero angry.


You’ve met its cousin, the corpulent O.

You once lived next door to its family, the Circles.

Doesn’t say much though, our zero does.

Doesn’t do too much or try very hard.

I don’t think it thinks it really needs to.


Zero boasts of cardinal and ordinal values

while being of no influence and scant importance.

A non-entity, the value of its function vanishes,

producing a sum identical to that which it was added.

Zero is, after all, the symbol for Nothing.


Nada, nadir, goose-egg, blank . . .

But zero has grown accustomed to the name-calling.

It’s Mid-Eastern good looks having moved millions,

quite intimate with commas and dollars,

associating with decimals in order that it might appear strong.


Zero pines for the full moon and powers of ten,

finding courage through configuration,

brought up to believe in the perfect form.

“I rhyme with Hero,” it proudly boasts,

unaware of other, more brutal, ironies than One.

Bruce McRae