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Sunday, March 29, 2020


by Roseann Lloyd

He says he doesn't want the people
to come off the cruise ship
because his numbers will go up...
He likes lots of kinds of numbers
besides the ones that go up
especially the ones he can throw around--
like the millions of masks
like the bigshots who call him at midnight
like the number of reporters he can dress
down in one presser:
That's a nasty question
You don't know what I've ordered
You're a terrible reporter
That's a nasty question [yes, for the second time]
It's not racist to say 'Kung Flu'
I'm not a shipping clerk!

I must pivot away from this vicious old man
and so I turn away from anger to the child
who has come up to me in my chair.
Who says, You look so old. Really old.
Yes, I say, I've had a birthday since I saw you.
Did you see me before I was born?
No, I saw you downstairs playing.

How many numbers do you have?
(After a brief pause for me to decipher)
Desmond, I say, I have 76.
Oh, that's really old.
How many numbers to you have, Desmond?
He holds up fingers on one hand and counts out loud.
1, 2, 3, 4.
Yes. Four. You are growing up.
His grandmother smiles and says her number: 67.
We're sort of twin numbers.

Later at home, I say
Husband, our days are numbered.
Let's enjoy each one.
Let's get married again
When summer comes.

Roseann Lloyd lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has published four collections of poetry—Tap Dancing for Big Mom (New Rivers Press), War Baby Express (Minnesota Book Award for Poetry),  Because of the Light, and The Boy Who Slept Under the Stars: A Memoir in Poetry (the latter three from Holy Cow! Press)—as well as an anthology co-edited with Deborah Keenan, Looking for Women: Women Writing about Exile (Milkweed Editions), winner of an American Book Award.