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THE BEAN COUNTERS


There are two columns for memory:
one marked his, and one, hers,
where narrow bands of paper fill 
with numbers that can't add up.
Nevertheless, we have our abacus ready--
which one of us will get the abacus--
toting everything from birthday presents
that sucked 		
to how many times a week we fucked
or didn't fuck,
until the numbers' ink
melts like dog shit beaten by spring rain.
The thousand love poems you wrote
but never read to anyone, and
the thousand poems I never wrote,
are read aloud so many times		
we count the syllables in our sleep,
sounding out every synonym for rage
as we type madly.
Finding there are never enough words
in the Thesaurus for this trembling,
we invent new ones,
twist love around on our tongues
until it spits from our lips,
brush our hands slowly over candles
until all oxygen is sucked away
by the flames.
Books fill the cavity
of the far side of the bed.
One day, you fall in love with a stranger
because you want to strangle her.
You mate and marry
because you like the same food,
then stay together
because it's too difficult
to be alone and then 
together, and then, not;
avoiding at all cost the chaos of coming apart.
With you and without you life is perfect:
people still whistle as they ride bikes.

© 1996 Jan McLaughlin