WHAT IS LESS THAN FIRE IS LESS THAN X
The B&B bar burns down and you eat flames
in your windshield, wend your way to work through
man-high drifts fat with buried drunks. Your un-
successful neighbor tries suicide with
a shotgun, glowers through half a face en
route to the emergency room where he
will wait a half hour of groan and inter-
com for his uncle to arrive.
Incised flesh is one answer to a wait
as handheld beam is one solution to
a gone-sour date and long home plod, no kiss.
The metal bone that's in your shin sings ray-
ray-radio: bad Top Forty songs from
1985 when you rode the yell-
filled yellow bullet bus to school, and your
hands were made of fists.
Knowing lack of understanding early
grief, your third grade teacher left for cancer
and did not return. Knowing only slow
song repair for old love and construction
of the most elaborate paper snow-
flakes. The skill of sieve and lace and never
getting over anything is what you
learned that year. Knowing remembrance
and remonstrance, Christian tracts found at St.
Vincent de Paul and used for your papier-
mâché reconstructions of remembered
breasts. Knowing prosthetic, mathematic,
that your arm is apparatus, made of
diagram, some luck, and force. Requiring
maintenance instead of sustenance, so
it says in the witty printed manual.
Your uncle trades his antique guns in for
time and what we hope is good talk with his
wife between here and Chicago to pre-
vent that end. Riots on TV tonight
and the broadcast close to a drawn and drawn-
out war. What comes through the telephone line
is garble, fury, full of sound and wine
that is algebra to you.