If you have won

You can work it out — if you have won
or not — by the simple application of a formula;
nature uses such equations urging water
to the lowest spot, helping giant, metal birds take

off, writing code for high pressure systems,
sudden lows; it’s a simple this to the power of that, so
add up where you are, who you’re with,
what stuff you’ve got,

how old you are
(divided by how much longer you think you’ll live)

and subtract all the things you could have been and
done and got and who you could have been with
if the train had not been late or
you had or hadn’t got on;

don’t forget the hours you were sleeping
when you should have been nuit blanche,
une petite tranche of the naked morning
to nibble on. (You’ll be surprised

there are no variables
— everything is mathematics;
like the millimetre lift at the edges
of your smile, the wild synapse of impetuousness

when you were seven that sent you
to the woodpile after the red belly black,
lifting broken palings — the woodpile itself.) All things
lived and imagined, held

stillborn, not conceived, ill conceived and awry,
undone and flapping ugly in the wind,
must be included in this most precise
calculation. The sum

of your life lived minus the sum
of the life you didn’t live but endured not having lived it —
this sum is the sum that tells if you’ve won
(which side of the ledger you are on.) Bankers

know this and speak of it in meetings
around long tables,
write it carefully in official statements that people don’t check
for errors, or shouldn’t if they

want the warmth of their own sun.


10 thoughts on “If you have won

  1. Always a pleasure to read your writing, Phil. Love this: “the millimetre lift at the edges of your smile,” and “the wild synapse of impetuousness” Two images to carry with me this day. Thank you!

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