An Algorithm for Grieving

by Adrian Potter

If Wednesday, then x = mourning. y will equal the dim interior of regret, the distance separating curse from confession. Inside the church, if the surface tension of the moment withstands both sermon and eulogy, then y = support, but only via sympathetic handshakes and awkward hugs. If male, then cry without tears. If female, then read the crowd like a fortune teller’s tealeaf. If uneasy, then x will be roughly equal to the difference between indignant and inconsolable, but divided by the unanswered prayers that push against patience. Assume an appearance by a prodigal relative, a gesture. If pained, then multiply the soul-deep ache by a hymnal’s dead weight, or better, deduct the deliberate singing of the congregation straining to keep up with the choir. In cemeteries, y always equals silence. Sometimes x can equal pallbearer, but can also equal absentee. Yesterday, x = envelope. x + y occasionally equals inheritance, but only when stepmothers are not present. x will nearly always equal empty then, or meager.


Adrian S. Potter writes poetry and short fiction. He is the author of the fiction chapbook Survival Notes (Červená Barva Press, 2008) and winner of the 2010 Southern Illinois Writers Guild Poetry Contest. Some publication credits include Interrobang?!, Clare, burntdistrict and Kansas City Voices. Additional propaganda can be found at