Saugus Iron Works

Tom Snarsky

Thinking of all the good things
you could’ve done but didn’t
or—worse—could do but don’t,

the world feels like a hand
extended to you in a dream, like
God’s hand in that painting

only it has one of those joke-
shop buzzer things in the palm
and you’re weirdly sensitive

to those ever since the boy
you liked in elementary school
(you had no idea) got one

with his Scholastic Book Fair order
and got you with it after he snapped
the flip-phone calculator you got

with yours you thought was so cool
—he never seemed all that broken
-up about it either, and it’d take

you years to recognize that
indifference as a kind of fatal
attractor that would lead you down

dark corridors for most
of your early life, and it does
that even now when you’re not

looking or being your best
self, when your guard is
dead outside at his post and

you’re so drunk you’re smoking
cigarettes and the world feels
like the party in Morvern Callar

a procession of woozy images
where you hardly know anyone
except the man with the spotlight

and you only know him because
the comfort of abstract nakedness,
the thrill of showing strangers

fragments of your soul
like bits of shell on a beach
washing back and forth so

intently they almost seem to be
doing it on purpose, is a way
to know someone or a way to

understand yourself
when something as banal
as introspection fails,

and not fails as in fails a test
but rather the way a bank fails
to uphold the common good,

another in the long line of broken
calculators. Ariana Reines has
spoken of the pawn symbol (this:


as being an international glyph
for bad math (I paraphrase)
and it’s so frightening how much

devaluing happens to us
but also is a thing we do
to each other, and as I typed

“is a” two lines ago
Autocorrect changed it to “USA”
being American as being

indefinite if you’re lucky.
My wedding ring says “our
checkered fortunes so lucky”

(cf. Ashbery’s “Instead of Losing”
as printed in Quick Question)
and Kristi’s ring says “our

checkered fortunes so pretty”
(cf. Ashbery’s “Instead of Losing”
as published at

This is an attempt
at the opposite of devaluing,
etching bits of poems into platinum

for love
Tom Snarsky is a math teacher who writes poetry. His book Light-Up Swan is forthcoming from Ornithopter Press.