Doing Maths

By Beverley Ward

I check his temperature again – 35.8.
It’s low, though he’s hot to the touch.
I press 1 paracetomol from the packet,
count how many I have left
and how many days there are until
the next online shopping delivery.

While he sits at the kitchen table,
calculating how many sweets
John and Tamsin would each have
if the packet were shared equally,
I divide the bag of oats into three bowls
and weigh up the likelihood of everyone
being happy with porridge for breakfast

Outside a magpie pecks at the grass
and I can’t help but think of sorrow,
though the garden is a wedding bouquet
and love echoes in the silence.

On the radio, they number the dead
and talk about the probability of inhaling
airborne particles at a distance of 2 metres
or 10, with or without a mask,
whilst running or ambling slowly,
stopping to pick the daisies.

And if Mary is black and works as a carer,
if she has no protective equipment
and lives in a block of flats,
if she can’t afford a car,
what are the odds of her staying safe?

And how many people will do the conga
beneath the bunting
and how hard do we need to clap
to offset the guilt?
How many will be allowed at the funeral?

If our alert level is R x the number of infections,
what is the value of a life?

Beverley Ward is a writer, facilitator and creative coach. She writes poetry and fiction and supports other writers from The Writers Workshop in Sheffield. Her creative memoir, Dear Blacksmith, is out now.

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3 years ago

Love all the connectedness in the… The numbers game…. A great poem.

3 years ago

Really like it Bev

Tracey ford
Tracey ford
3 years ago

Bloody brilliant 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

Poetry and Covid-19 ARCHIVE (This website archives the over 1000 poems submitted by over 600 poets, and viewed by over 100,000 from over 125 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, June 2020-June 2021). Thank you to all who took part in the Poetry and Covid project.

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