Abacus beads, up close
Image by Wolfgang Mennel from Pixabay

Normalize Into Quiet

Five short poems tabulating life in pandemic winter

I. Normalize Into Quiet

Half-abacus, I calculate the snowfall by the silence,
ponder how we normalize into quiet
thousands of excess deaths each day. Like snow
accumulating, drifting, uncontrollable

falling out there
deadening the world

II. Work Break

Working from home, you home in
on the mathematical, fanatical panic,
whites of my eyes slicing at you to

read, write, a rhythmic tic
stalk off into the snowstorm for a break,
anything to shake the blood out of my boots, anything –

Do we have any letters to mail? Quarterly taxes on my forty-three-dollar royalties are due next week you know. I know they don’t pick up from the porch anymore, they’re gutting everything, shutting everything, but they’ll know if I miss the deadline. They’ll track the tiniest blood drops through the deepest woods to collect their game you know. I know, forty-three dollars, embarrassing, next quarter I need dedicated time for marketing but it doesn’t make sense, nothing makes sense but I calculate it anyway dollar for dollar, hour for hour and it’s unjustifiable for you to give me that time, to give me that break, to read, write,

I’m doing long division in my head to track fresh snow
yes it’s bad but
the mailbox half a mile over black ice is worth the trip to

give me a break.

III. The Difference Between Work and Chores

Still working in my rest

I can’t rest, check my phone, ride the algorithmic crest.
I’m always working, or doesn’t that count?
The difference between work and chores is whether surplus value is produced by labor
and mine is wasted. Even in our sleep

I wrestle the children down for their naps.

IV. Unwaged Labor

Unwaged labor fixing supper
so we can work one day more

Chores don’t fix more than what they fixed the day before
and that’s why they ain’t paid for
by bosses we stay alive for
by doing them chores

the wringer squeezes, discovers more

V. Losing Sleep

The abacus clacks in my head — you hear?
an irregular wood bead for each,
counting over child-bent wires
how many minutes until the alarm

Your profile cuts a screen-blue seam in the dark,
I lose count at the dip in your lip
where worry impresses, expresses the incalculable
and rack the beads to start again

Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this content, please do connect with me and say hello.

A compassionate and opinionated human being. | Fiction author and visual artist in Central Appalachia. | Give my newsletter a try: https://bit.ly/2sZGM6n

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