Arts & Culture » Culture

Figure Forty

by David Hardin, Royal Oak

One second, the time it takes
to inhale and exhale a breath,
held for a beat then released.
Not the breath of a lover

or worried mother
breathing in fractions of a second,
held for one long moment
at the touch of fingers tips

or a ringing phone, released
with a cry in the night.
60 an hour, let's say, breath
upon breath upon breath beginning with

that first one exhaled with a scream,
an eternity passing before the next;
enough drama for one day.
I've done the math. 86,400 a day,

sun up to sun down around
the clock, long days drifting on
currents of breath, lazy eddies spinning
off here and there, galaxies receding

away only to bob to the surface down
stream, a Doppler trick of memory.
Days on end approaching like the
mailman taking time to squint at a

number or chat with the codger
at the end of the block. Or like a
tracked fastball thrown in a late inning,
stitching registered only

after you hear the smack of the
ball in the glove, only after the
thought: full count.
Have I got my figures right?

3650 days to a decade,
a calculation done in the head, a
quick tap to wedge a zero into place at
the end of a year of days, time

pressed between bookends, ten thin
texts stand at attention, spines out,
proclaiming eras; "The Sixties", Disco,
Reagan, Me. Abandoned station platforms

viewed through frosted glass, receding
to pinpoints of light that blink off
finally, forgotten in the steady snare
beat keeping time on rails that drift

toward each other, bent on collision
far up the track. Check my work, I've
never been good at math: 14,600 days
is a long time to wander in the desert

looking for the Promised Land. Better
use the bathroom before setting
out. Now for some multiplication:
350,000 hours or 21,024,000

minutes; I don't trust the calculator
any farther than I can throw it. Let's
get back on firmer ground; seconds
and breathing. One second, the time

it takes to inhale and exhale a
breath, held for a beat then
released. A lover’s breath promising
an era of seconds, sixty every

minute, in lost time on a slow
mail train to the Promised Land,
bent on collision again and
again far up the track.

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