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In 6th grade Mrs. Kottler introduced a concept:
the googolplex: 10 x 10 to the 100th power.
Not infinity, she said. Infinity was larger.
My father said no infinity times, said all As,
no A-minuses. In 6th grade I devised a plan:
if I was perfect, if I made no sound.
Saturday morning I’d begin with the sinks,
the carpets, the lawn. Rake the clippings,
dust the shelf of Raggedy Anns.
If not one speck. If I did not like
a girl or boy enough to be asked
to their house. If the space I took up
was smaller than its opposite.
One particle of dust in the known
universe. How did I solve?
By dissolving: quiet, quiet. Less, less.
The sinks gleamed. I admired the lawn,
did everything he told me, including
When you’re 18? You’re on your own.
Out. I didn’t feel the need to be perfect
again until I was the mother of an infant,
knew I could hurt my son in any number
of ways: a diaper left on too long,
one feeding missed. It pained me
to place him on a doctor’s scale,
strap him into a car seat. No good
at calming him down, filling him up.
I was back in sixth grade, an unending
regress. That I’ll drop him. Is that a rash?
Ten to the tenth power times 100:
as far from infinity as the number one.
One misstep, and his atoms returned
to the star where he was born.
Copyright 2021 Martha Silano
Martha Silano’s collections of poetry include Gravity Assist (Saturnalia, 2019). She teaches at Bellevue College, near her home in Seattle, Washington.