Before I was ever old enough

to add them up
I had glimpsed the numbers

tiny blue spiders 
crawling just under the skin
of a gentle man

a man who always had time for us
with a voice like a door opening
onto a lover's quarrel

shoosh he would whisper shoosh 
and when we were all quiet as time or six year olds 
could ever be
he would let us touch those tiny spiders in his skin

of course
we had no idea
what they added up to

that number was a creature
quite on its own in the world:
what it said no-one else could hear no-one else 
could speak

like the little god
of a world created simply
to destroy itself

we didn't think a number
that big existed
in the world

to a child of six
one hundred is a very big number