Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Fathers

We are not our fathers
with their apple throats
and burlap skin.

We are not our fathers
with their thick tongues
and monstrous hands.

We are not the young
men they were,
the sons of Vietanm
and segregation.

We are not their
moon-eyed faces,
looking up as Americans
filled the sky.

We are not the social
conservatives and union
sympathizers, the
cigarette-lipped children
of immigrants.

We are not reckless
and dying.

We are not our fathers,
but we are their shadows,

and we stretch
tall from their
steel-toed boots.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Developmental Mathematics

I teach developmental mathematics.
In the 1990s we would have called it
remedial. In the 1790s we would
have called it cutting edge.

My students are the leftover students.
I teach the prom queens who no longer
have a kingdom.  I teach the tattooed
and the pierced.  I teach the veterans
who hold their pencils like detonators.

My students are non-traditional students,
students who have nine to fives,
students who leave my evening class
and stock the local Wal-Mart until
the sun rises.

In my class we factor, distribute, solve,
and simplify. We do math that, for many,
was done alongside puberty.

My students did not get it, or, more often,
they were not given it. And so I hold
them by their mathematical hands,
and we walk into the world.

My students think they are stupid.
They have been told as much by faculty,
friends, family, and every news report that
compares America to China.

My students think that I am smart
because I can divide, multiply, add,
and subtract fractions without so much as
moving a pencil.

Other people like that I teach developmental
mathematics.  They say that I am a good soul.
They say that I should be lauded for my effort.

I think other people like the fact that I teach
developmental mathematics, because
they like the fact that they aren’t enrolled.
They like that there will always be cashiers
at Taco Bell and people to change their oil.

What they don’t know is that one
by one I am building a small army.

What they don’t know is that the
prom queen is about to find her crown.

What they don’t know is that the
Wal-Mart stocker just factored a trinomial
without so much as moving a pencil.

We’re all climbing ladders here.
My money is on the ones who were never told to stop.