The Law of Halves as Applied to the Blade

Michael Lee

The news said it had been done with a kitchen knife,
it had been done fifteen times. Earlier that day
my math teacher had stepped towards the blackboard
proving that if you continue to halve a distance
between two points you will never reach the end.

The next morning I stood two feet from the door.
Then one foot. Then six inches. Eventually,
with only centimeters remaining, I gave up, deterred
by the endless impossibility of getting through the day.

From the onset of forward motion, the knife
must have been two feet from the first point of entry.
I picture it then being one foot. Then six inches.

Imagining the rule of halves applied to the blade,
its point still hovers over his chest. His shirt
is clean and his hair dry, and I have grown older
waiting for him to return. The knife
is barely moving now, ten years later,
like a shiny metal train creeping into the chest
of a station where everyone is dressed in red.

He has had time to ask his mother why
she is pointing a knife at him. She has had time
to notice his new haircut, the way his eyes are wet
and catch the glint of the sun bathed blade.
She has had time to notice his clean shirt,
which she would remember has having had been red.

The passengers never imagined when the train entered,
then left, that they would slide back in. And out. And
in fifteen times like a sewing machine undoing a shirt.

At the onset of forward
motion his shirt was white.


Michael Lee is a Norwegian American writer, performer and youth worker. He has received grants from Intermedia Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Prime Number and Rattle, among other journals. Michael has worked as a dishwasher, a farm hand, and a traveling performer. Currently, he works as a youth counselor for teens experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis where he lives with many books and a coffee pot. Lee has another poem published in this issue of Phoebe, which you can read here. 

You’ll find biographies for all contributors to Phoebe 43.2 here. 

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