Counting
Arlene Ang

backwards in a room choked with resin
menagerie, with the horses figured after

the crooked arrows of Anteros, he regresses
into a dot in an anatomy book: he is

the unborn element behind his mother’s sclera,
the perfect word at the tip of her tongue

in that speech where the sponsor mispronounced
her name and the perfume in her red handbag

drenched away the ink on her cue cards.
In their past lives, they were thieves:

long grass reminds him of her bruised mouth,
the rye bread she spat after the noose

tightened around her neck. For a moment,
he struggles against the cord: a premonition

of the cold milk bottle in her hand
as she stares out the window long after

he has soiled himself, of the sonatas
in b-flat minor, her music sheets like

medieval tapestries churning in fire.
Later, he returns to the daily routine:

they never sit down for meals or talk
without lowering their eyes to the ground,

the television a continuous rhubarb of war
and advertisements, needless things in a house

where the only retribution for a spilt bag
of flour could have been forgiveness.


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