Sally Ball

Function of X


X and Y are abroad;
X is going crazy and he wants to kill himself.

He wants to walk under a bus;
he says this matter-of-factly, dull in his eyes.
Y finds the dullness excruciating.
She is alone enough without her native tongue
and then this man, X, a sort of taunt:
the epitome of useless, her protector.

They are artists, though they do not thrive on bad behavior.

The bus seems more alive than X, untrustworthy.


How can one wish to be well?
Such a wish depends
on admitting you are not.
Mania means hopelessness alternating with victory;
it poses an apparent choice
              that is no choice:
Despair, no strength to choose a thing;
and Potency, lethal combination
of mastery and suspicion.

It's lonely at the top: deep intelligence
and intuition leave a soul
perpetually in search of company (How lucky to find it,
what raw gratitude floods the heart and mind when locked
together with another human,
someone equal, someone better
than oneself—). What effect
has mania in such a soul, already at swim?


Visionary clarity descends, an unexpected gift:
the laser of the new
accompanied by conviction—
adrenaline and the sexual edge of knowledge, the mind
alive with worthiness. What separates the genius
and the lunatic is not the surging thing they feel.

How can you reject the mind—
where all the trouble started, but also
where all that's enthralling came from,
can ever come from—

Y always thinks that once a problem is identified
it's solved, but Seize the day is an injunction for the well, the weak,
the bored. X isn't bored-this is the crux.
He's full of thought and work and conviction
yet he's paralyzed. Weakness? Sickness?
Where's the line? (That line intersects
forgiveness, that line affects evaluation—)


X has done nothing yet that's in the public record....
Though maybe he has broken Y's heart?
When can you determine
how a wound will heal? X is high and low
and he wants to disappear. In Europe,
can't you disappear?

If X, then Y....
He drowns in the ellipsis.


Why does a man choose fidelity,
or not choose it? What notation
could represent despair
within that formula? What does such a formula
tell us about any one man, X?

Y wants to save him; Y wants to punish him.
X was X once, and now X is one letter
in a long sequence, his lifetime of limits and derivations,
the way addition is just the first application
you learn on the long way into the Calculus.
Calculus is better, but addition was so clean—
in primary school textbooks it starts
as union. 1 U 1 = 2
How is it anyone forgets that,
taking marriage for consolidation.

X and Y did not forget. They were careful to be two.
Maybe it's the craving to be one, to be that imaginary number—

Wouldn't that obliterate the one
drowning in his own mind? If Y is resolutely
Y, who will X spend himself on, who can make him vanish,
who can be 1/X?

They got one over on X, the Swabish merchants.
But maybe it saved him from the bus.
Under a woman is not under a bus.


The world is full of false and dangerous symbols. Which is why mania
is so attractive to a genius. The acuity, authority.
Take me close to death,
to the hard glare of oblivion, in whose wasting light
a febrile clarity comes.
Don't we all know it
sometimes? Keenness of mind, touched by risk or by effacement?
It's the premise of boot camp, of the fucking Marines.


"I started out so well," said X,
implying the problem of the present moment.


Y ought to change, too, but how to see a change
as other than plain compromise, subtraction? What change
keeps X from being alone in his repentance—
isn't that the key?

The only lack of faith he's shown
is in Y's ability to also fail.

Could she now?
Fail to forgive?
Fail X
or fail herself?

Are those failures tandem
or either/or?

If Y, then X...
If X, then Y...

This is what you forfeit when you love
everything around a weak spot:
your own must be eradicated or dismissed.

Good-bye. You can always get down to zero,
to obliteration. The only way to strive
is toward infinity.

I want you well.
I want you smart.
I want you back. I
claim my love.

Some choices are made utterly alone.