Bad Math

They say the handwork teacher died
of cancer because she was a hoarder—
shelves clotted with tangled skeins,
shadows of puppets, driftwood dowels,
piles of jaundiced newspapers, bird bones,
jars of beads  and regret.
Who doesn’t understand
the unappeasable urge to amass,
her addiction to textures, to graspability,
reminding us of what we are not?
She finally figured it out after hearing
the words “a mass,” clearcut a swath
through her life, not only the closet clutter—
her husband, the house, three sons.

Iscador injections, potentized, they say,
turn rogue cells docile
for a time.  She rebloomed,
traveled to Japan, resisted the urge
to buy jade and pearls, even as
the math in her went wild.

They say things are only things,
as if their calling out to us
could be muzzled, as if all the bodies
we desire to hold and hold
onto didn’t change in our grasp,
as if it were a cinch to divide
this world into the living
and the even more alive.

Originally appeared in Words and Images, Spring 2012

It was the winner of the 2012 Betsy Sholl Award, given by the University of Southern Maine 


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