Michael Lauchlan


The knapsack problem is a problem in combinatorial optimization–Wikipedia

The Women and the Fruits by Aristarkh Lentulov

Never good at math,
I can’t begin to solve it–
how to maximize goods

stuffed in a pack–even
when the issue is stripped
to weight and dollar signs.

Instead, my pack fills
with my inadequacies as lover
husband father teacher

until I recall that I’m old
and dump everything out
and start over. I’ll include pines–

red and white, with finches
and woodpeckers skittering about
and a bluejay raising hell

with everyone and sun
angling in. My mother’s voice.
My wife’s lips. A newborn

in my hands. A war
that didn’t need to be fought
but was, again and again.

I can’t forget the face
of a child pulled from wreckage.
The shrill claims of the cruel

weigh down the knapsack,
though their speech lacks
real gravity. I’ll take books

from my shelf, Kenyon, Keats,
Boland, and Dove–quiet,
weightless, insistent voices.


About the writer:
Michael Lauchlan has contributed to many publications, including New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Nimrod, Sugar House Review, Louisville Review, Poet Lore, Southern Poetry Review, and Poetry Ireland. His most recent collection is Trumbull Ave., from WSU Press (2015).

Image: The Women and the Fruits by Aristarkh Lentulov (1884-1943). Oil on canvas. 56.1 x 62.7 inches. 1917. The left part of a diptych. Its right part, Society at a Table (1916), is in the collection of the Omsk Oblast Museum of Fine Arts. Public domain.