Math

1.

Start with a headcase, call her N lost
in a vast blue grid of equations: the square root
of X divided by the sum of its parts, bits of childhood
in there, bits of breakfast and love swirling like pheromones
on their carnal axis; X over (Y plus five) equals lust,
fixating on those surges of absurd
calculation as he considers her angles, isosceles
legs this way, more friction, try less, try falling
not like rain, but a leaf into his palms from a wide, unknown space;
X equals Y if Y could dismantle obstinate sound, an electric saw
with dull and missing teeth in the hands of a man
unable to discern branches dead
from alive until, finally, the green straw of life begins to show.
As if math could catalog and account for each
decision made, each emotion as it builds a wall around us
or passes through us like a ghost. Is the moon a variable,
triggering the water in our bodily oceans to shift,
the numbers to invert, new probabilities formed?
More importantly, are there any constants?

2.

Ellen and Steve’s marriage, calculate based on the equation:
X equals sex over occupational frustration, variables to include
economic decline, the furnace going out, the fire.
Add Ellen’s fear—certain men will inevitably leave their wives
for younger women. They don’t all seem like bad men.
Or is it worse that they aren’t all bad men.
Love, a bomb shelter under the plutonium plant.
It might begin with a receiver click after an almost silent breath,
then again, and again. Jealousy plus imagination,
a robin flies unknowingly into the bay window
and falls to the cold earth on its broken wing.
A headcase, the sum of her parts floating like pieces of an airplane
in the sea, unaccounted for?

3.

These algorithms have rules, a finite number of steps
that should solve any problem, but every sequence
has infinite possibilities. Cut deep into limestone, the bomb shelter
no one ever found. Was it too obvious or not obvious enough?
My father says, do not spend money on the dead,
a practical rule. Ask someone else,
and they’ve planted yellow rosebushes around their lover’s grave
which they pay groundskeepers to maintain
for any number of reasons, infinite possibilities within
other infinities. Equations without answers.
Perhaps mourning is less exhausting
if we have something else. A yellow rosebush,
or a small clay jar, ashes wheeling down a cliff
into the sea where breakers splash hard against the rocks,
or those ashes diluted in a watering can and poured
into peace lilies by the window.

4.

Here’s a true story. A boy wakes his girlfriend about a dream
in which she cuts her long, beautiful hair—he actually calls it a nightmare—
and he’s sitting in the great pile of it on the floor, his sobs echoing across the
bright white space of his imaginary emptiness, in this case, a colossal
unfurnished room. Then he says, my love is conditional, stroking her hair
as the girl turns away from him, pretending to sleep.

 

Northwind | Fall 2012