Three Poems by Rita Chapman

By Rita Chapman

N choose K
n!/k!(n-k)! or how to calculate possibilities

I am the infinite
assembly of alphabetical
breakdown, of
combinatorial thought, of
tongue and torque.


calculusA comes before b
and then after b
as birth comes before
death but the death
can happen anywhere
in the course
of the shifting priorities
between the love of a
good man and loving
the man who loves back.

When b precedes
c, I am changing with
each image of the
sea rising against
the octopus caves
as the sun shifts the
barnacles from white to
orange and each stone
continues to disappear.


I have made my pact.
I transfer it
because it is loose
and fractured
into fractal patterns  that
mock the finite
and the impulse to
change what is already
soft.  This is the same
reason love is too
easily repositioned.

The pact becomes
the only possible subset,
the only one
subtracted from me.

It creates its own sky
and then peels it back.


The Night Season, Ferguson

The jet stream
steams through
blue August
while we,
who were never
prepared for this witness,
see no choice but to
climb the heat spiral
of our last moral
objection to the
flames staining these
middle-land breezes.

0704142149We, who were never
prepared for this witness,
are desperate to
chase the tail winds
of our illusions.
They are smoke,
they are colored
by the wisps
of blue and red light,
they are satin ribbons
that slink through our
fingers like the last
slice of no.

We, being prepared
for this witness,
know what has been
stolen from the margins —
we, who tender empty
epiphanies and pointless
to the faultless smoke.


We had Hoped for More

I was told world shelters a carnival
under its tin triangle.

The Irish mothers in Southie sugar their tea,
add milk, and curse the lottery.

Slick black tanks full of ethanol
will race from the cornfields this fall.

I buy yeasty red wine in big paper
boxes, ring the yard carefully with cheap flowers.

My back is behind me.
A new concrete church proclaims
my love of  God, the ritual of country.
I can have this one minute for every
incinerating desire.

For when the begonias fail in the drought,
the walls crumble and tumble across the cracked asphalt,
and nothing looks good after the rain,

I will steal my own bricks of clay to sell
to the politically significant, even as a debate
may not be developing about what we pay for middle-class freight.

Rita Rouvalis Chapman teaches high school English in Webster Groves, Missouri, where she also helps with a very cool literary project in the English department.  Recently, her poetry has appeared in Mojave River Review, the Irish anthology Fathers and what must be said, Semaphore Magazine, Anomaly, and SHANTIH.  She is a student in the MFA program at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Calculus photograph by Flickr user Jin.

Smoke photograph taken by David Nilsen in south Chicago in July, 2014.

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