Work equals force times distance

by Brian Clements

when you walk up the stairs
and open the door to your office,
switch on the light and the heat,
and pull back your chair,

or work equals force times displacement
times the cosine of the angle
of your body’s misdirection
when your Honda bounces

off the side of a bus,
or when a bus takes out
a speed limit sign
(since work is the transfer of energy,

as when I transfer energy from my body
through my Ping G10
to a ball likely
to fly awry),

which is good for us all, really,
so we can apply mechanical
advantage (which is the load
of our hope divided by our effort)

to predict safe distance
from forces that could not care
less whether we avoid them
or not, nor whether the bridge’s

fulcrum will hold and suspend us
and our Hondas and our busses
adequately and happily above
a void of attention

where all the formulas
break down into want
and want not,
into wish and would,

into my disappointment
that work equals the displacement
of my disposition and is inversely
proportional to my closeness to working

as measured in jewels of time
when I might be playing golf,
or doing this: I transfer energy
from my brain to my fingers

and then to the keyboard,
which converts mechanical energy
to electrical energy and is stored
in a nearly abstract space

where it is practically nothing,
a potential thing looking for a place
to stand, looking to find good use
in a crowbar, a wheelbarrow,

a drawbridge, your arm.

*Photo of a speeding bus courtesy Markus Schopke.