Clint Margrave’s “The Math Mortician”

Poem: “The Math Mortician”
Poet: Clint Margrave
Magazine/Journal: Verse Daily
Blogger: A. Duncan

This poem de-familiarizes death by comparing it to math, but in the same way gives it the depth of meaning we want death to have. The first stanza insinuates that the “math mortician” is so hardened by the many bodies he has seen that there is no value to death anymore. Death doesn’t carry the weight that it might have previously had for him because, “he sees numbers, readies them up on time’s table”. The second stanza starts to dive into how contemplative the mortician is about the power of death. He “uses algorithms over aspirate”. The words flow there, like how it flows for him to compute all the numbers over a regular breathing pattern. My favorite line is, “hypothesizes infinity is but an empty set”. It speaks with a somber attitude. Infinity does not exist and the mortician knows that, but hypothesizing is part of his nature, and infinity is a guess that won’t sit down next to him.

The last stanza really ties the poem together, and gives it more meaning than I had thought it would have based on the first stanza. The poem turns out to be more about the inevitability and sadness of death than about the mundane quality of death that the mortician could have had eyes to see. The last line states, “when death’s the only constant”. No one gets out of death; it is the only thing in our lives that is absolute, unlike the value of our lives, which he declares in the previous line.

Published by


The literary journal of the University of Illinois at Springfield.

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