I Lose Track of the Variables

by Joannie Stangeland

Say stress to test how wood
or bone will fail, fatigue
for cracks in steel. What breaks
by degrees—a simple math.

The small worries lodge
in my body’s nests, where neck
marries shoulder to skull,
sure pockets of last week
lingering, a shoulder hunched,
a wrist pinched, tension circling

the space between our surfaces.
Some days as long
as the no-man’s land
we walked between borders.

How to ease our boundaries,
our words unfolding
after the fiercest spring winds
have stripped the tulips.

Our hauntings, osmotic, transfuse
this diaphanous membrane—
what we voice, what’s swallowed
when we say weary and mean you,
no and mean home.

How to know which straw’s
the last, slanting
in winter light to settle?

We bring our angers, our hands empty.
We bring our translations,
hunt for the formula,
tempered by our years.

We chart the distance between stars
in light years and angles.
The telescope opened the night’s world,
a closer look at the stories,
new truths to prove.

Remember the loaf and fish
that increased beyond counting?
Abundance means you don’t have to measure.
Trust means you don’t have to test.

Joannie Stangeland is the author of In Both Hands and Into the Rumored Spring, both published by Ravenna Press, as well as two chapbooks. Joannie’s poems have appeared in Off the Coast, Superstition Review, Crab Creek Review, First Water: Best of Pirene’s Fountain, and other journals and anthologies.