Weekly poem on Trump Presidency
after Robin Coste Lewis’ “Math”
Take a boy. My boy. Understand mortality rates have been falling for decades. Understand there is no safer time to be alive. To be a boy. White boy. Blue-eyed son.
But understand there are three kinds of lies. Understand the anecdotal to be gospel.
Take a boy and assign a number to his flesh. Assume the number is his chance of being taken, world-murdered before he reaches manhood.
Assume that number is 18. Assume his dad has a twenty-sided die. To live, roll an 18 or higher. Assume the wicked of this exercise.
Now roll. Now adjust the roll for the variables:
Add for American not black, for American not brown. Add for not the city I grew up in and its downtown, its busses, its Olde E alleys behind liquor stores.
Subtract for his art. Subtract for his tender heart. Subtract for a velvet heavy velvet hot velvet breathless sadness. For sadness for why he feels so sad sometimes.
Divide for sex as gender, for who he is told he is by who he is supposed to love, who he might want to love. Divide him by love.
Subtract for our anger, our MAGA, our gaslit nostalgia, for what it might mean to be a man in a world frothing toward war.
Add for how rich. Subtract for how poor. Multiply by privilege, square by systemics. Fraction for fentanyl, Fortnite, for the PM 2.5 pushed into his lungs.
Add for no belt, no switch, no father’s fist. Add for no pistol in the house. Subtract for lockdown drills, for Ar15’s, bump stocks, Columbine copycats. Divide by the NRA, big pharma, bought lots at Yale and Harvard.
Take away for the hate you give, the villainy you teach.
Subtract for the anger of lost white boys. Subtract for the cruel white boys. Add for saintly boys in makeshift cathedrals.
Add for my thick back, my tears, my laugh. Subtract for my bark.
Add for the strength of women. For his mother’s love that might be enough all on its own.
Take a boy. Take all the boys. Roll their bones.
Matt W. Miller is author of The Wounded for the Water (Salmon Poetry), Club Icarus (University of North Texas Press), selected by Major Jackson as the winner of the 2012 Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, and Cameo Diner: Poems (Loom). He has published poems and essays in Birmingham Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Narrative, Crazyhorse, 32 Poems, Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, and other journals. He is winner of River Styx’s Microfiction Prize, Iron Horse Review's Trifecta Poetry Prize, and The Poetry by the Sea Conference’s Sonnet Crown Contest. The recipient of poetry fellowships from Stanford University and The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Miller teaches and coaches at Phillips Exeter Academy and lives with his family in coastal New Hampshire.