Peter Kline

Long Division

I’ve been taught to expect divide.
Keep your hands on your own side.
Birth cut me from my mother
but it started earlier:
before I even had a heart
they put me in a place apart
without a light, without a light.
No wonder if my heart’s not right.
I’ve got a feel for separateness.
We both decided it was best,
considering how quietly
you became you, I became me
until we didn’t know each other,
to civilly unswear together
what we’d sworn, and meant, for good.
Life parted us before death could.
The universal law is Split—
I tried to make the most of it;
Gave all my work away for free
and found I’d sold my dignity;
Severed all relationships
and wound up straddling the hips
of loneliness, the gentlejohn
who spends the night with everyone.

Peter Kline
“Long Division” first appeared in Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 49 No. 1.