The Story of 800

The Story of 800

by Mary Courtney

Out of the blankness of nothing came four zeros.

Eyes in flying saucers of bewilderment.

And they looked 'round, but couldn't see, until two

became spectacled and two monocled.

And they adjusted their view. But after a while

became accustomed and no longer saw anything new.

And so zeros became telescopes. And the sun

and the moon and shooting stars enveloped them.

And as the far drew near they became accustomed

and no longer saw anything new.

So they turned then to eyes of a microscope and

the near changed; into a most curious stranger.

And they saw cells and the nucleus of cells and all

the circles we are made of. With eyes refreshed, zeros

were everywhere. In straggles of hair and sticks of chalk.

In transverse section, bronchioles, for air to talk.

In rolls of papyrus, neurones and old bones. In oak

trees, battered coins, bath-pipes and tins of peas.

And the zeros glimpsed their arc of possibility. And

two tried seeing themselves new. One balanced on top

of the other, to become an infinity. A figure of eight.

The dance of perpetual quest.

And the other two grew, in the knowledge of infinite

possibility. And this is how the story of 800 began.

Haddon Library Poetry Competition, 2009

University of Cambridge, UK

The Haddon Library of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge ran a poetry competition to celebrate the University's 800th anniversary. The competition was for poems inspired by the numbers 800, 1209 and/or 2009. The prizes were presented in Cambridge on Friday 25 September 2009, during the University's Alumni Weekend. Mary was awarded second place in this competition.

Mary was born in Coventry to Irish parents - and started writing poetry as an escape from the debilitating effects of ME, an illness that descended in late 2007. Painting followed a year or so after that. These new aspects of her life have been a vital means of expression, creativity and productivity.