Green Hills Literary Lantern



X Equals the Unknown


“Words or silence are all we have,"

     the famous writer says on the talk show,

then lowers her head, as if in prayer, humility?

          The host nods, keeps nodding, lights

                 making her gray coat shine

       as if the chinchilla is alive in the twilled fur. 


Talk or not talk, huh, like my father quiet,

        in the chill chopping wood, and I’m picking up

apple and maple, smelling the pulp as I haul

          the chunks to the porch and stack them.

                Or maybe all we have is sharks

        and orange juice, like the undersea adventure on TV


and what I’m sipping tonight for my cold.

       Or snow and tears because I’m weeping

into my pillow, too sick to shovel snow (my job),

           flunking algebra and no one to help.

                   Now I’m picturing the dead blue jay

        I found in pine needles, pulled some feathers


and tacked them in a circle above my bed—

       my own kind of art.  Silent bird and my mother’s

words:  “I don’t give a damn if you’re sick or not,

            you’re going to school tomorrow

                  and ask that teacher for help.”

         I picture orange juice and Cheerios swimming


in my belly, and I’m watching out

        the rear window dark

squiggles the bus tires print in the snow,

             rolling toward unknown numbers

                  experts say hold

         the secrets of the universe.


Charles Cantrell  is a retired English instructor.  His manuscript Wild Wreckage is seeking a publisher.  Poems appear in recent issues of ABZ,  Rockhurst Review, and Vermont Literary Review, with others forthcoming in The Hurricane Review, Paterson Literary Review, and others.