back J. Lena Evans

AlGEBRA

Read the problem carefully—several times if necessary;

that is, until you understand the problem,

know what is to be found, and know what is given.

Decision time again, conscience mocks.

I caress pointed

bones,

shivering skin, all pits,

rough edges and hard age.

The dishes chronicle his

passing

as they pile and ferment in the sink,

but ripe steam still surfaces from our dirty

clothes.

# Let one of the unknown quantities be represented

by a variable, this is an important step

and must be done carefully.

A frail hunch descends

along the

cracked

corners of my mouth.

I miss

drinking;

somehow spirit and mouth alike

became aerobic, my apprehensions,

fixed distinctly

elsewhere.

If appropriate, draw figures or diagrams and label

known and unknown parts; look for formulas containing

the known quantities and the unknown quantities.

Conscience persists:

Structure, or

life?

You decide. Will you dress today,

and what of the mailbox?

Have you visited it recently?

Where hides the

rent?

What happened to your

lover?

Do something, would

you?

says conscience, hungry.

Form an equation relating the unknown quantities

to the known quantities.

I grab a bottle, his picture

a rocks

glass,

two straws, two ice cubes, a lemon

wedge.

I scratch the smile from his

eyes like the fake foil

from a lottery card.

One tight-lipped

swallow,

and I begin to dance.

I slice the curtains in

pirouette, drop-kick the

alarm,

choke his cat,

poke holes in his

favorite chair with a screwdriver.

Check and interpret all solutions in terms of the

original problem—not just the equation—since a mistake

may have been made in setting up the equation.

I set out walking,

hoping to find him, by chance,

in the liquor store.

ANOTHER NIGHT ALONE

along the boulevard

there aren’t any

dreams

cars rush like surf

but they’re

only cars

people walk by

but they

don’t look up

I watch

from the table

on the balcony

feet on the chair

with a glass of beer

maybe

music

trying to gather

meter

from the rush of new

rubber

on concrete

the engines

tight

movings

the pure

air

and for a single moment

the street grows

quiet

and I know

the world stretches

along the neck

there are

ears

out there

IF WISHES WERE POEMS

And I had one wish it would be that I am

given a new mind, and I do not remember

what yesterday does or last or the year before last year.

And in forgetting, that uncontrollable peace reigned

in tyranny over me, and daylight held real delight in

repeated random acts of old fashioned concentration,

and there are no vacancies yet I am fashionably empty.

And that anything, anything is easy.

And that indulgence is prudence

because then has already been, now is rich

and later has left for the day.

LOVE IS NO TOMATO

If only love made the thundering clap and whine

of a balloon deflating when it went.

Maybe then I’d know. Instead, it forgets.

It forgets sweet discovery and falls victim to memory.

It forgets how deft fingers glide through hair, how an

eye can mean so much.

One step after the next, love forgets

it rolls on its ribs and forgets to say goodnight.

It glances through foreheads and over shoulders

or below.

It smiles somewhere else

at something blurred and untouchable.

If only love’s rot left a tangible soft spot, a visible bruise

that I could squeeze, like a tomato,

and know. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so confused.

But its weariness grows like a cavity, or age—

mute pain at first. It forgets the feeling of a warm hand

resting on the back of the neck, a tracing of the navel,

a kiss on the eyelids it forgets.

It forgets its own promises and soon soft Iloveyous

conflate, and ambitious musings convert to mere echolalia

Soon again, nothing-at-all said, and even worse,

nothing meant.

Then it forgets its own face for lack of looking,

and what it is becomes what it was and what it used to be,

and Love is nowhere to be found.

THE DEVIL’S CIGAR

Do come to love what needs

no monument and is not new:

same clock buzz to compel you to wake

same house of broken crayons

same mugajoe, same cigarette break,

same sad complaints, the same mistakes;

same dollars leant or lost or spent

to get you through.

Oh this

is what you all thought

was important.

Do come to love the key of G:

be G and G and G, and G—go slow,

when the wind rushes on like a piccolo—

if that is enough for you to belong,

to go along if not get along.

If not in action

I am sorry in thought

it has come to this.

Do come to accept birth as an accident,

death as universal apathy, the soul as inept

beyond perception and conscience,

the past as something the memory

must mute to ease complexity,

and the future

as little more than a settled commitment

to this or that brand of laundry detergent.

And then come back to me.

WE TWO

I’ll be the one with

all the theory; you,

you gather a rhythm

is palpable and

infinite between us.

I’ll think transactions,

numbers, formulas. One

plus one.

I’ll request from you,

I’ll believe in logic,

deductions undressed.

You’ll bargain a rhyme,

toss me a whimpering sound:

the capricious word,

an emotional scrabble,

hoping to be heard.

I’ll promise knit knots.

I’ll hand you closed, one-

dimensional non-

intersecting curves:

incalculable

three-dimensional

spaces.

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