(dam Patterson/Unsplash)

When I announced my leaving to study poetry
you said, fine, but remember you can’t eat words.
Maybe you expected me to live on your diet
of numbers, to live in a world as true as a wall
or floor. Measure twice, cut once, you said.

Maybe that’s how you love a son. Give him
a solid geometry to hold in his hand,
a way to build what people will buy. In the end
you set me loose to the images in my head
that turned into piles of paper in a drawer.

Isn’t the earth numberless and older than science?
God with no T-square, no level, just eyeballed
creation, starting with nothing but a Word.
Do you think He ached when His son fled carpentry,
just to die for the abstract sins of strangers?

Gary Stein’s Touring the Shadow Factory won the Brick Road Poetry Press annual competition in 2017. His chapbook, Between Worlds (Finishing Line, 2014), was a contest finalist. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Folio, Penn Review, the Atlanta Review, and the Asheville Poetry Review. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, co-edited Cabin Fever (The Word Works, 2004), and has taught creative writing in high schools and colleges.

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Published in the September 2023 issue: View Contents
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