Up late scrolling
for distraction, love, hope,
I discovered skew dice.

In the promotional video
you see only a mathematician’s hands,
like the hands of god,

picking up the dice one at a time,
turning them over and over 
before returning them 

to the hard wood table,
where each lands with something 
between a whoosh and silence,

face up, face down,
some faces lying on their side,
as at other archaeological sites.

I bought a set of the patented dice,
each with its own logic and truth 
and aleatory uncertainty—

at home alone I rolled them
across my dining table
to pass the time, 

and time with its own logic
passed. Dear god.
I haven’t been touched in so long.


Copyright © 2022 by Catherine Barnett. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 29, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I’ve always loved dice, never gambling. Dividing a Cadbury chocolate bar between his five young children, my father (raised in Las Vegas) tried to quiet our protests by saying, ‘Life’s not fair,’ which haunts me now as I recognize all the ways this brief claim is true. ‘Skew dice’ seem perfectly named for our moment; the mathematician Henry Segerman says they are ‘the geometrical expression of things being slightly off, something not being quite right.’ During those days when we saw fewer faces, and the faces we did see were so often masked, hands were especially communicative, often alluring.”
Catherine Barnett