If there is to be a counting,
forty-two is what I paid the man.
And no mundane currency did he request—
he asked a far more intimate recompense.

He handed me a large, sharp drawknife,
which I took, and raked its gleaming blade
across the softness of my body,
shedding forty-two strips of flesh,
dropped, wet and limp, like lifeless
snakes that coiled at his feet.

Because all things cost, and
the toll will be exacted,
willingly or not.


Forty-two in pounds; nineteen in kilos.
I tore them from myself with purpose,
because that is what was asked.
Seven by six; nineteen by one—
what was demanded, I met in full,
and now my debt is ended.

I fulfilled my part, without
protest or hesitation, and so
my owing has been satisfied.
I did not question the account—
the one that needed settling—
but I paid its balance, all the same.


The passage of time has made it
evident that this was not
simply an outstanding debt,
but a more-than-fair transaction.
All I gave, in live body and flesh, has
been repaid with generous interest,
in enrichment to my soul.

My spiritual coffers are brimmed
with love and with wonder,
compassion and forgiveness,
with confidence and clarity.


I did not know the Asking Man,
nor did I even try to glance his face,
but he was no deranged Merchant of
Venice, bent on settling a score—
he was both benefactor and guardian:
the source of a new strength.

And to him, I am grateful
beyond measure.


For the one whose debt is yet unsettled,
I am moved by the heart-heavy
weights of empathy and sadness,
for you no longer get to choose the hour,
or the amount, or the currency of paying.

Because all things cost, and
the toll will be exacted,
willingly or not.

4 thoughts on “Forty-Two”

    1. Thank you so much.

      In short, I don’t know why I chose the number forty-two. It is the number (in pounds) of weight that I have lost as a result of a troubling chain of events.

      Many times, I know that something has significance, but not why. When I write, I try not to “think” too much. I prefer that my words flow unfiltered, and often they come from my subconscious and my unconscious.

      This is a difficult concept to explain, but I am not always aware of the significance of what I am writing until it is finished and I have read it several times myself. That has always been how writing works with me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Woah, thats 20kg. It’s good that you’re decisively recovering since weight loss like that could have lead to something irrevocably serious. I feel that feelings and intuition are often more valuable than standard thinking, especially when composing poetry. It creates a strong rhythm and touching narrative not easily duplicated by logic.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yes, that’s a lot of weight to lose. It’s mostly been over the course of the past few months, so the health detriments should be negligible.

    I’ve always felt physical effects from intense emotions—be they positive or negative. In a way, it reminds me that I am human, and I am glad that I am not someone who finds it easy to shrug off serious feelings that really should have an impact on a person. Too often, we easily dismiss and move away from that which should be faced.

    As far as my “channeling” of these forces into writing, I’d prefer to think of it as equal parts spirit and emotion. All things in balance.


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