Kathleen McGookey

Change Your Life Through the Power of Math

Translate your life into an equation and scribble it on a billboard— variables, parenthesis, equals sign. Reduce the ex-boyfriend in France to a square root, the builder who couldn’t read blueprints to an imaginary number, your mother’s missed diagnosis to the power of one. Leave the answer blank. Math’s comforting and reliable: change any figure to arrive at a different, more elegant solution. Such an equation is more valuable than a time machine, because even if you met your younger self stepping off a yellow bus or locking her grad school office, she wouldn’t listen to the earnest, graying lady you’ve become.

Numbers clarify, like a magnifying glass or a telescope. Put this billboard bearing the equation of your life somewhere near the World’s Largest Truckstop on I-80, where the brown grass in the median sways. When night falls, your inscrutable numbers will blink in the headlights like constellations. One of those travelers might be a girl so different from the girl you once were that to her, the flash of the billboard looks like a door cracked open, a little light spilling through.



Into the Throat of Morning

Only the slender words swim this far.

My luck lives in a rice-paper house I keep on my bookshelf. She doesn’t mind the dust. Her heart is a broken black cricket, wings slick as oil. Maybe today she will sing. I feed her what I catch--spiders, rose petals, a hawk feather or two--but she never says what she requires.



Kathleen McGookey’s latest book is Heart in a Jar (White Pine Press, 2017). Another book is forthcoming next year from Press 53. Her work has appeared lately in Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, december, Field, KYSO Flash, Quiddity, and Tupelo Quarterly.