Percival Everett’s poem “6” from the Logic section of his book re: f(gesture) is, interestingly enough, not about six, but rather about seven. The poem opens with “Seven men / can be obliterated” (Everett 70). Following this, seven becomes the focal point of the poem, mentioned seven times including this first instance. I found this intriguing and definitely ironic; why is seven so important that it’s in the spotlight of a poem called “6”?
At first, I thought perhaps seven was the number that is focused on because of the connotations that people tend to assign to it. When I first read the poem, I immediately thought of the Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity. These sins–pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth–are supposed to be representative of the primal, hazardous tendencies of man. They are considered to have been a part of the human experience since the fall of Adam and Eve with the temptation of the apple, and although humans can actively try and resist these sins, they will never go away completely. I feel that the persistence of sin aligns with the sentiments of the poem. The speaker states, “Men gone, but / not seven” (70). Even as time goes on and ages of humanity pass, sin still permeates the actions of human beings despite efforts to stop it.
Alternatively, I considered the “numerology”–a study of numbers in one’s life similar to the study of astrology–of seven. According to Numerology.com, “The number 7 is the seeker, the thinker, the searcher of Truth… it is always trying to understand the underlying, hidden truths.” Seven is representative of curiosity and unlimited investigation into the secrets of the world. Again, I feel this “characteristic” of the number seven aligns with the persistency outlined in the poem (“Men gone, but / not seven” (70)); one of the most distinguishable traits of humanity is considered to be our curiosity that is rarely satisfied. As astrophysicist Mario Livio points out, “humans are the only species to ask not just what, where or who, but also why.” Humans have asked “Why?” for centuries and each time they find an answer, they move onto the next “Why?” Perhaps “6” comments upon the perseverance of mankind’s necessity to discover throughout the ages.
After considering these two interpretations, and the multitude of other “meanings” and facts I found about seven, I began to think that maybe the most important thing about the number seven is the fact that it is a number. I had chased myself down a rabbit hole of possible hidden meanings and ideas about persistency when numbers themselves are considered to be some of the most permanent things that exist. Consider the lines “Seven men lost, / but not seven” (70). At first I was very puzzled as to what this meant; I thought maybe it was saying seven men weren’t actually lost. After reading it over a couple times, however, I felt the italicization of the word “seven” was important. It suggests that “seven” is not referring to “seven of something” but rather seven itself.
This makes sense in terms of my earlier interpretation that the poem is about persistence and permanence. The speaker says, “Seven is, will be. / All men will die / but not seven” (70). Before, I was looking at the characteristics assigned to seven by humans–how people personify it, value it, fear it. Perhaps its most important quality is its inhuman one: it lasts forever, and even after mankind is gone and cannot give seven some kind of humanity, the number will still exist.
This meshes nicely with the title of this section of poems, Logic. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “logic” in two ways. Firstly, there is “reasonable thinking”: “a particular way of thinking, especially one that is reasonable and based on good judgement.” The second way logic is defined is as “formal thinking”: “a formal, scientific method of examining or thinking about ideas.” In both senses, there is supposed to be a lack of human emotion being applied to the issue. A lot of times, if someone is being “illogical,” they are acting too heavily upon their emotional side. Indeed, emotion and logic are considered to be polar opposites in many cases. In the article “Logic and Emotion” for Psychology Today, author Michael Levine describes how our left-brain and right-brain are regarded as the logical side and emotional side, respectively: “The left (and more pragmatic side) tells us to act logically, while our right puts up a dramatic fight for following the heart’s content.”
Perhaps “6” seeks to make the reader look at the number seven in a logical way as opposed to the “illogical” assignment of meanings to a number that acts too much on our emotional, “human” side. Instead, we should regard seven as what it is: a number that somewhat transcends human impact. It should be noted, however, that all of this discussion arises out of a poem, and writing poetry is generally considered to be a “right-brain” function. This could be seen as just as ironic as a poem titled “6” being all about seven.