13 Ways of Looking at a Tax Return

A poem for the taxed and confused

Dan Geddes
Human Parts
Published in
2 min readMar 17, 2019


Photo: mediaphotos/Collection: E+/Getty Images

With apologies to Wallace Stevens and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”


April is the cruelest month,
when youthful hearts with passion burn,
and everyone else must
file an income tax return.


Draft versions of her tax return,
lie crumpled on the table,
stained by her coffee cup,
like pages from an unfinished fiction.


A man and a woman are one.
A man and a woman and a tax return
are one (if filing jointly).


She thought secrets
more guarded than diaries
are locked away in our hearts,
and found in our tax returns.


She remembered the old Zen koan:
“What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
And thought of her own:
“What is the sound of a tax return,
in a strong wind, flapping?”


Over dinner, beside the vase full of tulips,
the lilac-smelling candles slowly burn,
casting massive flower-shaped shadows
upon their white tax return.


That night she dreamt:
a vivid nightmare about an audit,
a tax inspector saw her tax return,
flying around like a paper airplane,
and he caught it.


The tax inspector began with a wicked grin:
“Our data shows that the act of filing
stops most people from smiling.”


“You look sad, but have no regrets!
The tax you pay will service
the interest on our…



Dan Geddes
Human Parts

Editor of The Satirist (thesatirist.com) America’s Most Critical Journal; satirist, critic, standup in Amsterdam