Bad Math, #171

Sleeping last night,
my body surrendered
to its nesting phase,
the world kept at bay
from my consciousness.
I dreamt myself
swimming in a sea
of equations,
in an ocean
of math,
algebra, trig, calc,
amongst fish
made of numbers,
moving in schools
up through the grades
and the depths,
counting themselves
and their scales,
diatonic and chromatic,
taking fourth period
for chorus, and fifth
for lunch outside,
glistening in the sunlight
by the sandbox,
the sun bent
at the angle of molecules
of water, of the muscles
being grown and stretched
on the fields, the dizziness
of an hour on swings,
the quiet boys
and laughing girls
sitting in the grass,
doing their best to hold back
the waves just beginning
to rise up inside,
crests caused
by the storms
further out at sea,
the turning winds
and rains, differences
in temperature, tsunamis
of adolescence,
prisms of possibilities,
the angles and curves
that cock the morning light,
mutating fears
of dividing and multiplying,
their wet angular bodies
all shapes and peaks,
sines and cosines,
my strained eyes
searching the playground
and the coral reefs
for square roots,
feeding on the kelp
of the quadratic equation.

Those other fish,
lovely Sarah
and dangerous Jennifer,
the soon to be jocks
tossing footballs,
Matt, Chris and Eddie,
even the outcasts
in the corners,
Travis and Becky,
were burbling something
about how life is nothing
but digits. How
they could never swim
with someone
who didn’t understand
their particular math,
the perfect logic
of the world,
how thick the arm
of the bully,
the symmetry
of the muscled
and beautiful body,
how the music
that surrounds us,
steps on the dance floor,
recipes their moms
baked up in the kitchen,
the naughty controllers
of video games
and the caw of the bird
they are hunting,
the twist of the streams
melting down
through the mountains,
through hamlets and cities,
over the great channels
of fresh water
and out past the bays
into the slow, rolling, resting place
of their dark cold eyes.
All of us just slaves
to what one can learn
to subtract and to add.
They all whispered,
the boys and girls,
the quarter fish
and the minnowy eighths,
the miniscule school
of sixty fourth notes,
nearly invisible.
Find a percentage
based on a fraction.
The universe is divisible,
in perfect unison
and harmony to sixteen,
eight, four, two, one.

I sat with each
as they showed work,
taught me the process
to get to the solution
each of them sought.
And when I
would skip a step,
even if the answer
was correct,
they would
make me go back,
swim back hard
against the current
or into the dark
sunless depths.
How was I
supposed to know
how to bully someone,
how to ensnare someone,
how to avoid,
next time,
the worm and the hook,
if I didn’t
take the time now
to learn the process?
All day in the dream
we rose and we dove,
turned with
and against the current
to find the shortest route
to our common denominator,
the underlying structure,
the scales of the music
and the molecules,
reach for an understanding
at the floor
of our oceans.
By the end,
we realized love was prime.
I woke that morning
to a prism
of light, bent
against the odd glass
of the old windows,
wondering about
my lost classmates,
about the bells,
rung off in the distance,
about my body
and its tired wrinkles,
my undone equations,
about the curve
and shape of my eyes,
and the lone print
on the skin
of the fingers
that rubbed them.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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