Keep Your Numbers Down

May 5, 2017

You are taught to flutter your lashes,
look sideways over your shoulder. Smile,
but not too wide. Ask questions, seem interested.
Touch his arm but not his leg. Make him want you. 
But then don’t want him. Keep your numbers
down. How many is too many? Decide on a number,
one that is respectable. Have fun but not too much.
No one-night stands. That counts more than double.
Count the football player in high school, but not 
the man from the post office, the Marine. 
Count the president of the fraternity,
but not his younger brother. Count the pre-law student 
from your dorm but not the stoner who lives on the corner.
Count the ski instructor nearly twice your age,
but not the ski patroller who liked doing it
doggy style. Don’t count the Australian
whose jumper you refused to return
after you saw him with another girl at the Coyote Café. 
Count your friend’s brother. But not 
your big brother in the fraternity. 
Count the Jewish Spanish teacher from Michigan,
but not the tour guide who followed you
across an island.  The artist, the drinker, 
the surfer, the cowboy, the triathlete, the poet—
don’t count them. Their names have already been 
been lost. For the numbers are witching rods, 
divining your worth. 

Suzanne Roberts is the author of an award-winning memoir, Almost Somewhere (Bison Books, 2012), as well as four collections of poetry. She writes and teaches in South Lake Tahoe, California. More information may be found on her website:

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