The Math of Mourning
One death is a tragedy
One million is a statistic.
But what about all the numbers in between?
How do you mourn them?
Four hundred and ninety-five thousand
Five hundred and seventy-two
How do you mourn that?
Do I still send flowers?
I choose one of the white bouquets,
But am at a loss for where to send it.
Six hundred and twenty-six
If the margin of error is large
Will it affect the size of the pit in my stomach?
The larger the number
The less we comprehend
When does mourning morph into scrolling past?
I glance at my calculator and wonder
If there is a formula to solve
For how lucky I am to still be here.
What about the numbers we'll never know?
The number of hugs we couldn't give.
The number of laughs we didn't share.
The number of once in a lifetime moments
That were left in a box with other hopes and dreams
Gathering dust in the closet
All in the hopes that our loved ones would be present
The day we dusted it off.
How do you mourn statistics?
"The Math of Mourning" was written a month before the one year anniversary of the beginning of quarantine. The weeks leading up to anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. hit me hard. This poem is representative of so much of what has been on my mind for over a year now. So much of what has been weighing heavy on my heart, but has been pushed aside in order to march forward.
I do not write poetry often and I never thought to share it. But this year has been hard. This year has been filled with losses both big and small.
I want us to have the space to mourn it all. To not be told we should be lucky, but to take a moment to consider the moments we lost and truly and freely mourn them, before moving forward.
The numbers used in this poem are the death toll as of February 19th for the entire U.S.
I also want to thank my husband, Greg, who not only listened and assured me that the math made sense, but who has been the most incredible partner I could have had by my side through what has been an emotionally and mentally exhausting year.