Michael Mark - Poetry

Less Than

by Michael Mark

In 5th grade, counting replaced my

prayers: 9 hours until math class. 3

weeks to math mid-terms. 4 months

from math finals. 7 Junes until I’m out

of here. 3,000 miles to California. I was

the number 2 hitter on our school team.

My father was proud, only missed 1

game. That didn’t count on homework

nights, banging the table, walls. 7

mornings a week I delivered papers to

31 customers. Shoveled neighbors’

snow-covered walks for 25 cents, did

ours free. Didn’t count when I brought

home the red marks from geometry,

algebra, trigonometry. Bs in English

didn’t count. Cs in science didn’t count.

A in Phys. Ed. didn’t count. Report card

days I’d count his commute home: 4

block walk from the printing plant to the

subway, 5 stops, 40 minute bus ride, 20

minute walk up 61st Avenue, after 9

hours at the press - that monster he took

me to one day for extra credit in Civics. I

wrote: The furnace was an angry God

consuming men in grey overalls. B+. He

got 2 weekend days: 1 night of cards, 1

bowling. 2 locks unlocking. Me waiting

at the kitchen table with red Fs. How

many minutes before he’d make a fist,

stand to stop himself, take a drink, take a

second drink, a third. He tried so hard.

He’d do the work, slowly for me, show

where I went wrong. His hot snorts

blasting my neck. A billion of my I'm

sorries for every one of his Try agains.

When he raised his hand I never raised