Assigning a Value

Fear equals fear plus
the square root of consequences
divided by time alone.
That’s before factoring in
imaginary numbers
for the places you didn’t go
when younger, able
to foxtrot & debauch
in unfamiliar cities.
Subtract passport photos
never taken, frequent-
flier miles not acquired.
Reduce further for each night
you didn’t speak, the women
you didn’t take home
with you, the men.
Then begin your calculus
of woe, figuring self-
worth lost in pills ingested
to rob the equation of fear,
though fear won’t leave you &
your obtuse angles.
Fear remains everywhere,
equal now to fear plus
starting over.

Ace Boggess is author of four books of poetry, most recently Have Lost the  Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2017), and the novel A Song Without a Melody (Hyperborea Publishing, 2016). His writing has appeared in Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, RATTLE, River StyxNorth Dakota Quarterly and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.