The new math
How differently things might have gone
if there had been two blind mice, five
bears, seven little pigs. If there were
three commandments would we have
done any better? And if you could count
to eight on one hand, or if it took
a dirty dozen days to create a week, might
everything begin to add up? How much we
have banked on those golden rings,
those easy pieces. When did seven dwarfs
align themselves with deadly sins? How
did the seasons become Death, Famine,
War, and Conquest? Arms linked,
the Musketeers wander off with the Tenors,
the holy trinity a three-ring circus. Surely
the circles of hell are too many to enumerate,
the cat’s lives parsed out, one per muse.
How many degrees of separation between
the shades of gray and the loneliest number,
and really, god, for the money, is one enough?
At the laundromat with Pablo Picasso
Mariachi music blasts from the AM radio
bolted to the top of the soap dispenser.
Pablo is stripped down to his white shorts
and canvas shoes.
He wheels a wire laundry basket around
and around the island of washing machines.
He stops at the bulletin board, calls to me,
‘Come here, cariña.’
Pablo strips all the notices from the board
and sets them in my outstretched hands.
He tears shapes from the ads and flyers
and business cards and in a moment
has pinned them back onto the board
into something that looks like a bowl of fruit.
When the dryer stops, we pile the warm laundry –
the red towels, the pink sheets and socks –
into the wire basket. Pablo pulls out a red
bath towel and shakes it to one side
and then the other, saying, ‘Eh, Toro! Toro!’
His grabs his shirt, the navy stripes
now purple and the white stripes pink,
and wraps it around his head into a turban.
I just want to get my laundry folded,
but Elvis is on the radio singing “Love Me Tender”
and Pablo twirls me around the washing machines,
our feet scritching on the gritted linoleum.
The turban makes him seem taller.
He tells me I am beautiful,
that he wants to paint me,
that I am his perfect model. He is kind.
He says nothing about my eyes, seems not to notice
they are both on the same side of my nose.
Three-time nominee for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her poetry has appeared in December, One, Diagram, Otoliths, Pedestal, Psaltery & Lyre, and many other print and online journals. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, USA, and online at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and Instagram @jikleinberg.
image: M. M. Kaufman