The man puts a gun to your head
or the friend you’re walking with
as a thought experiment is what we’re doing
and says he’ll shoot you
unless you can remember the quadratic equation
or all the lyrics to unchained melody
and the question is
how long will it take you
to know now what you once did?
x equals I begin,
plus or minus my love, my darling
I’ve hungered for your touch
and is it the square root of
b squared while the gun
does not move, the man
in my mind looks at me
not kind but not angry,
the test is of this
long, lonely time that goes by
so slowly and can do so much
but cannot bring me now
4ac over something.
And why am I solving for x,
I am solving for you
who will die if I do not remember
and I need your love
I need your love
even in this ludicrous experiment
to prove the past is gone
the past is never gone completely.
In my mind I am failing you.
The science of my brain
seems designed to make a world
more challenging than the one I live in,
I do not like the dark corners of menace
I continuously walk towards.
But then a world without villains arrives
with the whimper of a hospital visitation
and I wish to bring you back
all I needed was to sing well enough
the words already inside me.
Ben Gallagher is a Toronto-based poet and essayist. He is currently landscaping and filling out PhD applications, and in the evenings he moonlights as a couch potato. You can find recent poems of his in the magazines (parenthetical) and untethered, and non-fiction at Lion’s Roar.