A Poem by Maryfrances Wagner



Because I Never Learned Calculus


I count and multiply everything.  I know

numbers, their sound reliability,

their results.  I count when I brush,

thirty for each quad, each hundred I walk—

steps to the corner, steps to the mailbox,

steps to the car in the lot.  I count grapes

and olives, minutes before rinsing,

seconds before rebooting, 613

pomegranate seeds.  I count coins

and cookies, socks and pencils,

hands in the air, faces in the crowd,

words and stitches, hours, months and years.


I cut bread into right angles and quarters,

quilt fabric into rectangles, triangles, trapezoids.

I add fourths and thirds to my batter, double

and divide my recipes, add sums in my checkbook,

calculate unknowns. I count pinches, tads and dabs,

a bit and some, about so and not quite there. I can make

graphs, enter numbers on spreadsheets.

I can’t read the code of formulas, can’t figure

slopes or velocity, and I solve for x

in circuitous ways, too many steps,

and no proofs.  I will never arrive

at an optimal profit, and a differential

for me is a gear. Change has always been hard

to accept, and I’ve never understood limits,

but eventually I arrive at what I need.



E71B09FA-3B17-44EA-9F1E-7F664F0007BD.jpegMaryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, and The Silence of Red Glass.  Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America:  An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al.  She co-edits I-70 Review.


One thought on “A Poem by Maryfrances Wagner

  1. Your ‘near rhyme’ of “x” and “steps”, about forty words up from the bottom, ties it all together for me.


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