Counting

You call this your “breakfast of plenty
in a time of scarcity.”
You eat it as late in the morning as you can:
Fried onion, garlic, celery, green pepper if you have it,
topped with an egg and a pinch of grated cheese
on a bed of spaghetti.
You don’t count the strands,
but you let a few drop back into the bag each time
because you can always make do with less.

The same goes for dinner:
two chicken wings and a handful of potato cubes.
The bones go into the freezer for soup
(that will be lunch for a week).

Count your blessings:
You have a freezer.
You have electricity.

Remember how you stood
in the pharmacy last week,
choosing between vital medication
and the utility bill
with the cut-off warning stamped in large red print.
This time, you chose to keep on breathing
and allowed yourself a sliver of irony:
Isn’t this only supposed to happen
when I get older?

Remember the gig that came almost too late:
You held your tongue, hid your relief
(some might say desperation),
counted your hours,
and delivered before deadline.
Partial salvation.

When the job you won
(you aced the interview and all the tests)
was snatched away in a moment,
you counted your words,
hid your tears, and vented with care:
The world is small, and shrinking still.

Count lemons. Count onions,
celery stalks, garlic cloves.
Count cups of lentils, cups of rice,
cups of water.

Do this for eighteen months.

Then, when your more tactful friends say,
“You look amazing!”
And your bolder friends say,
“Wow! How did you manage to lose so much weight?”

Blink and smile, turn your face aside

And count to ten.

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