Postcards from Malthusia DAY FOUR: A.M. Havinden

Lesson Plan


Now we learn the algebra of fear.

Triangulate risk, count breaths on an abacus.

We have enough for six weeks, and the timetable


in chalk is ragged. I have never seen

such doubt loosen the mouths of people.

Old friends bloom in my head,


a photograph album left out in the rain.

the day has brought us here. Buckets

brimming with water, rain still peppering them.


Calling a register is a kind of music.

Are you here?

I am here. You are here. Eye contact is an art.


We have made a timetable, but the hours

spill and stretch and talk breaks out

between times tables and I hadn’t known


how I’d crave the salt

freedom of everyday life, or how I can’t

provide everything, or even safety


for my children, as I teach them, here, how

to plant a dried pea, who knew

how little they know, the world is too big


to show them, how to test the soil

for warmth, pull the weeds by their very deepest roots,

allow for distraction, and for a collapse


now and again, quietly over open books.

Call the register. Count the breaths.

I am learning the meaning of presence.




A.M. Havinden is a writer and artist. She lives in Argyll, with her family. A recipient of a Scottish Book Trust Ignite Fellowship, she is working on a collection titled The Water Cure.

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