Margaret Hickey

The Arithmetic of Love

In the beginning we were carried away by each other’s figures
And applied ourselves wholeheartedly to multiplication.
Love used to be as easy as falling off a log.
As easy as pie.

After a time, however, things started not to add up.
There were problems – signs.
I was positive something improper, something vulgar was going on
But could find no proof, though I tried to get to the root of it.

You became more abstract and when we quarrelled
We reduced everything to its lowest common denominator.
We got out of balance. I found you negative
And you didn’t treat me as an equal.

You began going to the gym to work out
Then bring home takeaways
Of which I might nibble on the remainders
While watching X Factor.

At times we tried to square things between us
To recall when our love was in its prime,
When we swung between seventh heaven
And cloud nine.

But there were just too many unknowns.
In the end you said you didn’t see the point.
Our days were numbered
And I proposed a long division.

That just about sums it up.
But I still sometimes ask myself the question
Did I get it right?

Margaret Hickey’s first book, Irish Days, is a collection of oral histories, of which Ronald Blythe wrote, ‘It is one of those eye-opening books which takes the reader to the source of Ireland’s poetry and politics.’ She recently appeared at the 2013 Ennis Book Festival and has just completed a social history of Ireland: An Irish Stew: How Food and Drink Shaped a Nation. Based beside the Shannon, near Portumna, she is Vice Chair of the town’s annual Shorelines Festival.

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