Ann Fisher-Wirth

Love Minus Zero

Harrumph harrumph, said my
Chaucer professor, pipe in his mouth,
pacing before the class on that

wintry afternoon, but I can’t remember
what he was talking about—
probably Troilus and Criseyde

harrumph harrumph, clearing his throat,
sex is enervating. I thought it was
way so cool, because in that room

full of virgins or putative virgins
I agreed with what I believed
he’d said: sex gave me lots of energy,

and I was delighted someone else
felt this way too. Making love
was the best. So when my new

boyfriend Jeff took me that April
in his scarlet Triumph TR3
to hear Dylan in Santa Monica,

and Dylan sang Love Minus Zero/
No Limit
, in that huge dark auditorium
my heart soared, I might not

always be faithful but I was true
like ice, like fire. Like the song said.
And Jeff would know how true,

and the nubbin-sized baby
discovered in me the month before
when I went to the infirmary

with “flu” would someday know how true.
Ah, my little one whose father
Jeff was not, he was a generous boy

nonetheless, who cuddled with me
on a madras bedspread beneath
a ceiling tapestry of Blake’s “Tyger,”

helped me with a biology project,
and bought bags and bags of Fritos
when I had the munchies for salt.

—Today, as the warblers sweet outside
and the mourning doves coo, I believe
in love minus zero no limit as much as ever,

though Jeff vanished by summer,
my baby died in November, and that
enervated professor is long gone too.


Ann Fisher-Wirth’s current project is Mississippi, a collaborative poetry/photography with the acclaimed Delta photographer Maude Schuyler Clay (Wings Press, 2017.) Ann's fourth book of poems is Dream Cabinet (Wings Press 2012); her other books of poems are Carta Marina, Five Terraces, and Blue Window. With Laura-Gray Street, she coedited the groundbreaking Ecopoetry Anthology (Trinity UP 2013, 2014). Her poems appear widely and have received numerous awards. She has been awarded residencies at The Mesa Refuge; Djerassi Resident Artists Program; Hedgebrook; and CAMAC/Centre d’Art, Marnay, France. She has held Fulbrights to Switzerland and Sweden, and is a Fellow of the Black Earth Institute.  Ann teaches at the University of Mississippi, where she also directs the Minor in Environmental Studies.