December 5, 2015

Federic W. Bertoff

THE SPOOL: A PRISONER’S LAMENT

There are many ways
to mark time
though most claim they don’t
preferring the myth
of living each day just for itself

And never counting
but I count
and measure the time in ticking seconds
in empty instant coffee jars
in socks with slowly widening holes
in calendar girls

Counting out lovely monthly mermaids
Miss Christmas, New Year’s, Halloween
I’m staring out the window again
or measuring lengths of dental floss
one spool (a hundred yards)
goes about a year or less

While each night hurtling through the galaxy
I floss that grinning death mask,
pink gums sanguine in his dim reflection
and supposing I ought to re-use that floss
at four cents an hour (the going wage)
I consider cost

But, with dramatic dispatch, throw it all away
one Last Grand Gesture
in hopes of burning up that spool
just a little quicker
with fifteen more to go

from Rattle #10, Winter 1998
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