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“Hello, I’m Charlotte Clutterbuck and I’m going to read Tricky Arithmetic (a poem published in Meanjin about difficult choices and their consequences):
Irrational numbers can’t be expressed as a fraction
As summed integers
He and She had many
a tea-for-two, built a four-square
family – totted up
years of birthdays
and Christmas concerts
the exponential growth
of extended families
deaf to the hidden
His apparent even-temperedness
and still-five boyishness counting out
the smarties after breakfast
masked some hidden corner
of doubt, baulking at a problem
He didn’t know the factors for
while under her efficiency
was a restless energy
chain reactions that left
radioactive waste in the psyche
a charged ion seeking
its extra electron.
Two’s a companionable coefficient
but when She started singing hymns
to Her, trying to triangulate
her path across chaos by the light
candles lit in every dark chapel
She passed, creeping step
by step across the gulf
on what She thought of as
the catena of prayer
She blinded herself to the obvious
that to work out the x in the quadratics
some of the elements have to swap sides.
She + He × by Her
= She ÷ by conflicting loyalties
1 + 1 in a new city
She × Her
= She discovering herself
= two pairs of hands
playing four-part inventions
in what seems like
a parabola of grace.
But also there’s the absurd notion
of incalculable square roots
the negative capability of grief:
She + Her = He – She
= 4 – 1 when the children visit
= He alone in the once-full house
night after night
the incongruent geometry
measuring the sullied earth
of others’ loss.
Whatever strategies She applied
to this unforseen algebra
the numbers didn’t stack up –
where is integrity now?”
ABOUT CHARLOTTE CLUTTERBUCK:
Charlotte Clutterbuck lives in Canberra and writes poems and essays. She teaches English, Academic Skills and Creative Writing.
“I came to Varuna on Poetry Fellowships in 2007 and 2010, and on a Publishers’ Fellowship in 2011.” Charlotte Clutterbuck
A Question of Ethics, The Essay, Sydney Morning Herald, 25.4.08
Knowing Paradise, The Australian Financial Review (Review Section), 15.8.08
Satan: The First Polluter, Sydney Morning Herald, 9.12.08
Soundings, Five Islands Press (University of Wollongong), 1997
Encounters with God in Medieval and Early Modern English Poetry, Ashgate Publishing Limited, Aldershot UK, 2005.
Poems and film scripts for the 13 episode animated series, The Web (Eco Productions) shown on ABC Television, 1992-1995.
Re-released in 2004 in France (cinemas and DVD) as Les Contes des Animaux.
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