If I Counted Down to 1
by Gordon Kippola

If I could un-send five emails,
          if I could retract five lies,
               if I’d attended high school
                    five counties to the east,
                         if I’d studied five hours

a month, if I’d gone to the gym
          five days a week, if I’d divorced
               five years earlier, if I’d run
                    that damn stop sign I missed
                         at 5:00 in the morning,

if five minutes were ever
          V minutes, if I could lose
               five pounds by eating 5 favorite
                    foods, if I’d said yes or no
                         or nothing the right five times,

if I’d kept five friends and avoided
          five frauds, if I’d tabled that stein
               five sips sooner, if 5 senses sufficed,
                    if we’d skipped family dinners at 5:00,
                         if I could forget what I reminded myself

not to recall only five seconds ago,
          if I compiled a list of five reasons
               not to spin five empty chambers
                    five times, then I’d be fine
                         with not counting at all.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2004. I’m next to the (immodest hussy) statue that stood in front of Saddam Hussein’s brothel, the building my unit occupied. That year I spent in a combat zone gave me LOTS of time to consider the twists and turns my life had taken to bring me to such a place.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What are the odds that I’d have written a poem, more than a year ago, that began with (and heavily featured) the words “If I?!” I did change the poem’s title to comply with the submission call rules but, honestly, I think it’s an improvement over the original (“Pick a Prime Integer Between 4 and 6”). So, thanks for helping me out with that! I may be one of a very few poets who ever experiences regret when considering their past (HA!), but a dark thought will occasionally flit through my consciousness. As I recall, though, I was in a positive state of mind while writing this poem (depressing/whiny subject matter notwithstanding). I appreciate it when a poem’s form resonates with its language and meaning, when form reinforces and extends content…which is something I tried to do with “If I Counted Down to 1.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Following 31 years as a musician in the United States Army, Gordon Kippola earned an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa. After more than a dozen military moves (within and outside the U.S.), he now makes his home in Grapevine, Texas.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author at Honeymoon Island State Park, near Dunedin, Florida.