Leah Umansky

Regular Arithmetic
February 20, 2020 Umansky Leah

Regular Arithmetic
for S. P. and H.

My sister says, all men are insecure,
And I think about the way this bowls through me,

Driving down the lane of me, pinning all my pining.
And I think about the way I scramble for something to hold.

Nothing aligns, no narrow stands or stirs. It all serves
For a hurtling headstrong or a nearsighted yearn.

But narrow is this hope and narrow is this pass
And narrow is the narrow of this tumbled-over fate.

Is it new, this spiraling combustion, or evident in each
Generation before me? Never, no never, has it been this misshapen,

This flat, oblivious, uneven and dissolving. Still, this kind
Of loss is a shattering, is a shiner in a grayscale of a dream.

The verging of what makes us human is what makes us ill-
Equipped and craning. No such thing can meld the two into one.

It is all haunted, like a defeated miracle, like a recoiling into the self,
Or the tragedy of the way a life can be unhinged, unkept, unstuffed.

And I think about all those birds on the Gulf of Mexico last weekend,
The serenity in their soar; the sweep of their scoop; the way

One bird realizes another, and one bird patterns after another, and one
Bird verges on another, skimming the ocean with wing-tipped pride.

That is the real alive, that skim, that connection to the larger world;
The interior, just a thought being carved, day in, day out: regular arithmetic.

I think about what my friend said the other day, how she doesn’t
Know the last time she looked at herself in the mirror, and how sad

And fearful I felt. Reflection is everything, even the birds see it, but the role

the sea inside, The dream of a woman alive

alive alive alive

Leah Umansky is a poet and a teacher. She is the author of four books, most recently The Barbarous Century (2018). She is the host and curator of the COUPLET Reading Series in NYC. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in magazines such as Poetry, Magma, Bennington Review, Poetry International, American Poetry Review, and Pleiades. More at leahumansky.com or @lady_bronte