God of ARITHMETIC by Lorna Crozier

Most children no longer know who this god is. For one thing,
he uses chalk as if time does everything but erase. In aban-
doned country schools, he prints columns of numbers on the
blackboards. There are no pupils to add them up and call
out the answers though his pockets burn with stars to give
away. His worshippers, in danger of dying out, recite the
time tables like Hail Marys under their breath to prove their
minds are still okay. No matter what they’ve lost—the word
geranium, the birthdates of their children—they can do their
sums. He wanted his only commandment to be included on
the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain, but the
others, bartering for space, thought it was only about arithme-
tic and left it out. It would have changed the world. It would
have made us kinder. Thou shalt carry the one, he intones to
the small desks in empty classrooms, carry the one.

 

Copyright © Lorna Crozier. Originally published in God of Shadows (McClelland & Stewart, 2018).

 

Photo credit: Angie Abdou

Lorna Crozier is the author of sixteen previous books of poetry, including What the Soul Doesn’t WantThe Wrong CatSmall MechanicsThe Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems, and Whetstone. She is also the author of The Book of Marvels: A Compendium of Everyday Things and the memoir Small Beneath the Sky. She won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for Inventing the Hawk and three additional collections were finalists for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. She has received the Canadian Authors Association Award, three Pat Lowther Memorial Awards, and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. She is a Professor Emerita at the University of Victoria and an Officer of the Order of Canada, and she has received five honorary doctorates for her contributions to Canadian Literature.

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