Greater Than and Lesser Than

EMILY SCHULTZ

Room Magazine - - SIMMONDS -

When you have eaten all you can, two spoons worth of pud­ding or ap­ple­sauce, I’ll kiss you on both cheeks. Ev­ery day un­til you have no cheeks, un­til the cheeks sink into the skull, and hope sinks too. Un­til you fold your hands, lie down, lie still now, as the smoke rings of old cig­a­rettes dis­si­pate, a chalk al­pha­bet washed out of the air.

Un­til you can only whis­per. Then I’ll go— no more to be done—drive through the day. In the night a tall glass of Guin­ness ap­pears, poured be­fore me, the dark­ness fill­ing up. Your last words to me were not Don’t go, but Take me with you.

I feed the baby, but can­not eat. I hold the phone while sleep­ing. Sleep it will; lit­tle words like yes and no too heavy for you now. The only call to come, the one I can’t face.

How many times will I re­mem­ber this voice that flashes and fades like a shadow on the wall? Wait­ing is an arithmetic that con­sumes us. Greater than and lesser than. A sym­bol on which chil­dren draw teeth.

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