Karin Gottshall is the author of the poetry collection Crocus (Fordham University Press, 2007), and the chapbook Flood Letters (Argos Books, 2011). Her poems and stories have appeared in FIELD, Harvard Review, The Gettysburg Review, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. She lives in Vermont and teaches at Middlebury College.
The Victorian Age
One thousand lockets minus a lace handkerchief
equal a flock of passenger pigeons, each
carrying a Valentine heart. Seven hundred
ladies’ gloves plus a fishing village
amount to one temperamental swan and a missing
engagement ring. The alphabet backwards
equals the cemetery on the hill. Marzipan
equals almonds, eggs, sugar, and a scullery maid
weeping into her apron. We’ve lost count
of cravats, hair brooches, and riding boots, traded
a deck of cards for two gentlemen playing
at charades. Top hats can be added to tapioca—
flavor with rum. Two hundred and fifty
petticoats multiplied by twelve chimneysweeps
equal a shattered femur. One locomotive
plus a dozen headmasters come to a bakery
on Easter morning: hot cross buns with currants.
A dirge equals a dirge. Twenty-seven
daguerreotypes times three overwrought aviaries
are a solar eclipse. Christmas divided by deep mourning
equals burnt porridge. Thirteen hundred orphans left over.