Emily Schulten’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Salamander, North American Review, New Ohio Review, Mid-American Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Her collection, Rest in Black Haw, appeared from New Plains Press in 2009.
Our friend Neal has black patches on his memory—
words, faces he can’t recall since a semi hit his bike
and his brain had trouble being in his head, grew
against his skull as he lay like highway chrome.
Now he remembers numbers with uncanny precision—
like the first responder, Engine No. 472, that saved him,
or the phone number of the girl from last night
whom he won’t call, because he can’t remember her name.
I wish my brain could swell this way, that I could remember
you only as an equation, numbers adding up to a sum,
a formula ending in an answer rather than knots inside, how
your face looked when it contorted into the truth, the empty
apartment when you’d gone. If only when you broke me,
it had knocked me senseless, left patches over everything
that doesn’t add up, over the part of my brain that can’t forget,
can’t make a theorem of my slow-beating heart as we crashed.