poem: math

What they never told us in personal finance class
was how easily our house of math can shift,
when an overdraft fee can sound like a basement flooding.
They never told us about the magic.

Trick one: when you park on the street in Dinkytown,
forget that your car is sleeping in a bedroom of wolves,
tickets in hand, waiting for the meter’s permission to
feast. This is how an extra five minutes with friends

can transform a quarter into forty-two dollars. Add in
your own annoyance which leads to paying the ticket late,
and forty-two dollars becomes seventy five. Trick two:
when you opted to save twenty-five dollars on your plane ticket

by taking the 6 am flight, this meant you didn’t stay out late
to see the whole poetry slam, not knowing that in the third
round you would have heard that one line in that one poem
that would have sparked the piece that you would have later

submitted to a competition and won. This is how saving twenty-five
dollars lost you five hundred. Trick three: that extra five minutes
you spent in bed with your lover meant five minutes less to drive to work,
leading to a freeway speed an extra seven miles over the limit,

which resulted in a ninety dollar speeding ticket for going two miles
faster than he would have let you get away with. Not to mention
the extra ten minutes lost from being pulled over meant you were
three minutes late to that presentation, which likely played a role

in the promotion you thought you were going to get, which would have paid
an extra 4,000 a year. And now you feel guilty every time your lover
annoys you and you wonder how much she was worth it. Trick four:
the last time you believed in God, you asked him to save your parents’

house. That was five years after that presidential election, when that one guy
pledged to protect homeowners from predatory lending were he to win.
That was the election he would have won had twelve percent of his supporters
actually dragged themselves to the voting booth, instead of doing everything

they were doing that seemed like a wiser use of their time. Your
parents lost their house, accounting for a combined sixty million minutes
of spare time, and when you told your mother you prayed to nothing,
her inhale was a basement flooding, and she began to question every time

you ever asked her about God, wondering if she ever gave
too short of an answer, in favor of saving time. Trick five:
your friend tells you that she is afraid the DREAM Act will never pass,
and that she’ll be forced to leave the only country she has lived in.

She tells you her last date was strange, that there was only a marginal
chemistry, but the goodnight kiss was the longest
she remembered giving. She told you that every second
feels longer when you’re preparing to vanish,

when you soften the ‘t’ when saying goodnight.
This is how five Senate votes can transform a cursory kiss into a grieving,
how a woman with a vocabulary of 34,016 words can only whisper when
closing her eyes: Stay. Stay.


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