Variable

A white bird’s robust breast,
split head of the smiling antelope—
meat marching into a knife’s edge—
red cleaved with light

I run like the antelope before its head was split,
smiling, lift my legs as if each muscle
was a perfectly taut rubber band, a sail filling,
white flap the texture of milk—footfalls
spring silent as they leave
the surface of the earth

You are a numbers man—how many times
have I disappointed you? Solve for x.
How many variables can I throw
before the equation dissolves? Does x equal yes
if I press on the flesh of your inner thigh?
Only if y stands for a reversal of time

I fell from the sky my mouth a sail
filling, the air a wild river of milk.
I opened my eyes and saw x miles
of brown desert below me—I didn’t figure
the odds of the parachute getting tangled
and flapping like a hide of old skin

If y is the number of people
whose organs explode as they slam
into the earth, does that make me
reckless? You keep your feet pounding
the ground—footfalls spring welts
like the wet snap of a rubber band

The white bird’s shining breast,
smiling face of the antelope bisected—
they march like meat into the knife’s edge—
silver blade cleaved from red stone

Marie Landau is an editor at the University of New Mexico Press and a member of Dirt City Writers, an Albuquerque-based literary collective. Her poems have appeared in ditch,.

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