Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

Mathematics by Tharani Balachandran

woman in a light blue sweater drinking from a white coffee mug

Somewhere in America another group of students’ lives are torn apart by bullets
and somewhere in America my sister is teaching math today.

I wonder how she can possibly make the Pythagorean theorem seem relevant

to students afraid they won’t make it to their next class,
For bodies feeling soft instead of bold inside their clothes today.

My sister’s class is a safe haven of snacks and books and hugs
for students who can’t afford more than the outfit they wear to school each day.

And she gets thank you letters from the parents.
Thank you for the shirt on my son’s back.
Thank you for the Christmas presents you dropped off today.

And I imagine the thank you notes she might receive
if the unimaginable happens today.

Thank you for making your body a shield today.
When your courage could have crumbled like papier-mâché
thank you for holding the door while my child ran to safety today.

So what should today’s math lesson be?
If an 18 year old is too young to vote
and too young to drink
how many guns can he buy today?

If fifteen police officers wait 90 minutes before entering the school
how many students will come out when the bell rings today?

Math is hard
but it shouldn’t be this hard.

What if teachers only had to teach today,
that the worst thing that happens
is Ryan passing out from fear
at the first hint of formaldehyde
when dissecting a fetal pig in biology today.
Rochelle crouching to the ground halfway through a lesson
showing how a mighty oak tree can grow from a single seed today
and the worst call a parent receives is, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this
but Stacey wet her pants during gym class today.
Can you please bring her some clean pants. Today.

And while I am imagining a different world
my sister remains at the chalkboard today.
Teaching addition.
Teaching multiplication.

And I hope
there won’t be a lesson involving subtraction today.

Bio:  Tharani Balachandran (she/her) is a first-generation Canadian lawyer, tea enthusiast, reader of books, lover of gossip and writer of poems who lives on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen speaking peoples in Victoria, British Columbia. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Anti Heroin Chic and the Racket.

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