Aftermath Martha G. Wiseman
equation: wanting plus wanting makes an even, if indefinite, number. One week later, you said—again—I can’t. Nine weeks before, you’d offered me a whetstone— your flesh, both yielding and assured—on which to sharpen my dulled appetite. The blade grew much too keen; ten days after, you tried to say. I must subtract myself, a little. Day by day I multiplied my grief. Four weeks accumulated. With proportions skewed and ratios—me to you as whom to her, me to her as you to someone—now unstable, you reappeared, ten weeks ago. We carved a tiny abstract space without dimensions, where counting never counts, times tables float far off, and neither long nor short division holds sway. Then time ticked again and real and weighted air entered and absorbed us. Through hourly calibrations of possible desire, through splitsecond reconfigurations of bodies and withdrawals, I’ve kept track of what my waiting would rarely bring me. I continue: Four weeks ago, under strange duress, you held me till I left. Three weeks ago, we talked, no denouement in sight. Two weeks ago, I touched your hand, you turned away. Eight hours later, we talked, I wept. Ten more minutes: I said I cannot bear this. Three days ago, I sent a note; next day, you must have read it. Yesterday marked two weeks since we’d spoken. Each moment I hold out becomes a number to manipulate, a mathematical victory for me. I’ll convert it into everlarger units of time and distance, till allembracing terms enfold me, too. My columns of figures profit thus from my restraint. And perhaps they’ll someday bridge exactly what they measure—they will lengthen till they reach you. Meanwhile, a dedicated student, I do my sums. I learned in school you can’t take more away from less: Can I still apply that ancient rule, I wonder?

"Aftermath" first appeared in Many Mountains Moving, Volume III, Number 2. The work appears here by permission of the author.
Original Graphic Image, "Fragments/Haunting" © 1999 by Clarise
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