Martha G. Wiseman
equation: wanting plus wanting makes
an even, if indefinite, number.
One week later, you saidagainI cant.
Nine weeks before, youd offered me a whetstone
your flesh, both yielding and assuredon 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 ratiosme to you as whom to her, me
to her as you to someonenow 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 split-second reconfigurations
of bodies and withdrawals, Ive 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 wed spoken. Each
moment I hold out becomes a number
to manipulate, a mathematical
victory for me. Ill convert it into
ever-larger units of time and distance,
till all-embracing terms enfold me, too.
My columns of figures profit thus from my
restraint. And perhaps theyll someday bridge
exactly what they measurethey will lengthen
till they reach you. Meanwhile, a dedicated
student, I do my sums. I learned in school
you cant 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