Dodgson’s dream of strawberry jam

by Erik Richardson

“If our brains were simple enough for us
to understand them, we’d be so simple
that we couldn’t.”
—Ian Stewart

if our lives were so boring we could predict them,
who, but the maddest of mercury-soaked hatters, would want to?
if mathematicians’ dreams could be closed up in clock-shaped days.
if it were always strawberry jam tomorrow,
or dormice never said to feed our heads.

if the sting of a slap or the whisper of a kiss
behind the ear were so small we could
have invented them on our own, why would we?
true, too: the victorian mansion of memory, the way we feel
five again at a tea party, and unfolding paper snowflakes.

if the mortality of our shattered, egg-shell souls
were easy enough for all the king’s men to solve,
if fractions never behaved improperly. the circuit of care
would short out, our lives all stranded to the left side
of lesser-than signs. smaller things

would become the greatest sadnesses we know
and we all the smaller for it—stumbling, potion-shrunk.
if a poem could not mean just what we choose
or the poet not disappear undone like a puff
of hookah smoke, his smile the last to go.

Erik Richardson lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a development director for the United Performing Arts Fund, a Zen teacher, and an adjunct in math and psychology. He also runs a small consulting firm. He is the author of A Berserker Stuck in Traffic (Pebblebrook Press, 2014), and Song of Ourself (Aldrich Press, 2017). Some of his works have appeared in Nerve Cowboy, Chiron Review, and Stoneboat.

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