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.
Maryfrances 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.