“Time Is a Two-Way Equation” by Lea C. Deschenes

Time Is a Two-Way Equation

I. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

All will be washed downstream
in time’s wake: our teeth,
my calloused heels, the curve
of your laughter hung in the air.
Our names will fizzle like wet squibs
and then poof! Out like a candle!

But here is today’s newspaper crossword,
so definite in its smudged ink. An old friend
remarks upon a small kindness, an act
you can’t remember. The kiss we shared
as you left on your way to work wraps a satin bow
around my mouth all day and tomatoes in the garden
have just begun to ripen.

Look at time like a farmer appraising river silt
after the flood: all this dirt awaiting seed.

Let it flow. Leave mourning’s sound and fury
to its place, which is not now.

II. Après-moi le deluge

Every little emperor wants to believe
their end is the end of everything.

Louis XV shook a sceptered fist
full of dire predictions for the future while
Mme. de Pompadour smiled behind her fan.

Courtiers thought her impossibly common –
a lamprey latched tight to the sweep of a shark.
Her smile never wavered.

So I come from fish guts and fat merchants:
I am not any yesterday’s prisoner.

My tongue’s a subtle soldier
on sheets stretched wide as a general’s map,
one ankle each in Spain and Austria.
This is how I conquer on my back.

Ajourd’hui, l’État, c’est moi.
Demain…C’est une autre nation.

IV. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

There’s an old man who busks on the corner,
sings oh baby, baby, I got blues like you don’t know
every day like the emperor of love gone wrong—runs
that sad song through its abacus and ticks each bead —but today
his dedication to heartbreak plays off-key, a hurdy-gurdy
ringed with dancing monkeys. He smiles
when they throw silver in his cup.

Tomorrow is another country
full of strange language whose phonemes
stretch the tongue to form new syntax.

When the flood comes,
don’t pile the shore with sandbags
all around your sorrow—

let time take it, if it will.

V. Valediction Forbidding Mourning

When feet are set to floorboards, their imprint
is fleeting. Even bootmarks on the moon
fill one dust mote at a time, which makes it no less
amazing to have walked there.

There will be more embraces until there aren’t.
They are no less warm for that. Without
the closing door, how could we forget
everything for one frangible kiss?

Fuck funerals. Throw my corpse a party.
When else is merry-making needed more?
Laugh until your cheeks are white with salt.
I will know nothing of what you do, so do it
for yourself.

This is how to conquer the flood:
today and today and today, floating
on your back without struggle.

When the waters recede, get off your ass
and whistle while you build into new space,
grace sprouted from hard toil and fertile muck.

Off to work, now. If you return
and I’m still here, we’ll welcome
each other home like no tomorrow.



Lea C. Deschenes lives in Worcester, MA and holds an MFA in poetry from New England College. Her poetry has appeared online, on stage and in print. A former member of four National Poetry Slam teams and a coach to two more, she has received a Jacob Knight Award, been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and represented Worcester in the 2005 Individual World Poetry Slam. Her first full-length collection, The Constant Velocity of Trains, is available through Write Bloody Publishing, as is the anthology she co-edited with Lisa Sisler, Knocking at the Door. She once found a five-leaf clover during a solar eclipse.


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