one short of the one that
is held as a gold standard
for measures of success and failure,
the number that judges everything
from someone's sincerity to
the contamination in a bar of iron.
It is a hungry number, besmirched
by an accusation of incompleteness
though it is so perfect in form,
its twin members so beautifully
illustrating its two divisors
the first one less, the second one more
than that other fabulous number
which multiplied by itself yields
that magic figure all men yearn for.
Perfect and yet always incomplete.
Ever hungry, ninety nine.
(Exactly 99 words)
Published in Amaravati Poetic Prism 2018