by Jessica L. Walsh


—for Sarah

The mathematical lie is x

My problem can’t be solved
for treasure or emptiness
much less a number
   that wobbles on a cliff
      of less or more

How can this be soothing
   the seeking of equals
when not even one is one
  but possibly three      made of ones
    that defy census

God     I am trying to solve you
  inside all I’ve learned

        My husband won’t write your name
             and if he’s right
              if a word for you can’t appear
                         in my notebook
                           the pretty one I bought
                                    just for working on the problem of x
                                    where x is your name unwritten
                         then how do I begin

Let us say the stages of my faith are five
No
      That is grief
but the stages of grief are certainly not five

Let us solve for grief
  when x is the number of mirrors
       a mirror sees in itself
  when x is y/0
  when x is the number of things
   that didn’t happen

The mathematical lie
is a graceless space
predictable      fair
where each side gives equally
   of itself
and no matter
 the steps       an answer

yes just that
 an answer
looms


JESSICA L. WALSH is the author of two poetry collections, most recently The List of Last Tries, as well as two chapbooks. Her work has appeared in RHINO, Ninth Letter, Whale Road Review, Stirring, and more. She is a community college professor living outside of Chicago.


Photo: “Nature Fractal” by Michael Lux