The Fear of Algebra
4 women grouped
at the rear
are shot in the eyes. A 5th running
towards the 4 fallen is shot
high in the chest then
twice more in the lower leg.
In the men's room, 3rd stall, 2 men
copulating are shot in the mouth. Moments
later 3 boys in their seats
are popped through the ears
neatly. An undetermined number -- x --
of seats are shot. Witnesses, 7 in all, 5
elderly, all indigent, dissolve
at the base of the spine. High
in the rigging over the stage 6 pigeons
are riddled till their wings
explode in 12 screams and every feather
but 1. This feather is y.
Those manning the weapons are dragged
center-stage and shot in the neck. Those
shooting them are shot as well
along with those who are
doing the factoring and
generally keeping count.
Eventually nothing in the auditorium moves but
dust and y floating.
At the same time the Hands of God
creep fingerdown along the central corridor
at a pace of 1 inch per 17 seconds. The temperature
on the auditorium floor falls
3° centigrade every
8 seconds. Given
the bright day, the fluids
in the men s room, the coins
still clinking in the pockets of the dead -- and
considering scrupulously the condition
of the generators, the cry
and suck of 26 wall clocks in the building
and the weight, finally, in grams,
of the 1 wing-feather that hesitates, falling
yet motionless -- how long
will it take God's hands to reach us?
Jed Allen teaches English at Phoenix Community College, and is Director of the Phoenix College Creative Writing Program. He is also a pianist, and is working on a project for three spoken voices and piano. His work recently appeared in Alligator Juniper and in the anthology Fever Dreams: Contemporary Arizona Poetry (University of Arizona Press, 1997).