The numbers were always too black and big,
squashed like bugs.
I took off my glasses to make them vanish:
the textbook page quicksand.
Algebra terrified me the same way as a street with a broken lamp.
Shadows reaching to me with malevolent crooked fingers.
Or an obscene phone caller heavily breathing into the silence
making me think:
Division Hypotenuse Triangle Subtraction.
Whenever my algebra teacher asked me a question I focused
on Jerry Nathanson’s dandruff as big as snowflakes.
There were six of us in Remedial Math and we all know each other’s physical oddities:
Jason Levitz’s torn and dirty fingernails
Allie Danzig’s hickeys as violet as her punk purple lipstick,
John Dawson’s pimples spread over his chin like leftover jam
and Hector Rodriguez’s eyebrows, furry and thick as caterpillars.
I failed Algebra three times in two years:
so much red ink over my exams that I wondered if my teacher’s pen had exploded.
Patient Mr. Henderson tried to explain that math was really no different than
a Beatles song,
each with their own interior logic.
I listened to “I Am The Walrus”
and could not understand the equation between Paul Is Dead and the square root of 99.
In college I avoided numbers altogether;
Constantly bouncing checks as I stared at the ATM screen:
as if the bank were describing me instead.
Only one night did I remember Algebra:
Standing on the corner of 116th street and Broadway,
Knowing that I had been raped by a fraternity boy but unable
to tell anyone at all.
He had crushed my fingers just like a beer can.
My coat was left somewhere in that room of flashing Budweiser signs
and the stink of stale booze like unwashed undershirts.
The wind whipped my bare legs, the snow biting like his nails.
He had violated my mouth as well and I felt incapable
of ever saying anything lovely again.
Instead I stared at the empty street,
the snow already stained yellow in the dirty city night,
Division Hypotenuse, Triangle Subtraction.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.