I want to ask my literature students,
What effect does a double negative have?
(I can’t not read the news, and I’m not not grinding my teeth as the notifications appear.)
Circumlocution, they might say. Padding.
Avoids direct declarations. Truth buffers.
(I’m not not having imaginary conversations
these days, my dog an ersatz pupil.)
Or they might discuss the positive statement
in negative packaging. Needs unwrapping.
(I’m not not fighting an urge to pray.
I don’t not believe in God.)
Maybe they’d point out my ambiguity.
Maybe they know the word liminal.
Maybe my denial is a two-note chord:
partial, incomplete, almost there.
Maybe I can’t not begin to grieve.
Marta Shaffer’s work can be found in issues of HOOT Review, FIVE:2:ONE, b(Oink), and others. She teaches high school English in Oroville, CA. Marta has worked for several journals, most recently Watershed Review in Chico, CA. Marta hails from Minnesota.
Photo by Phillipe Bout.