Helping my son figure out 
equations and linear functions,
I remember how in math
I was always about to get lost.

Limits and derivatives, 
sine and cosine,
coefficients and constants.

All it took was a blink,
a glance away 
from the blackboard,
and I was in a forest:
trees with no tops, rare noises, 
and a mounting darkness.

Even if I learned a new concept,
it was like arriving in a foreign country 
in the middle of the night
and only knowing how to say,
“Hello” or “Where’s the bathroom?” 

Teachers kept pushing me deeper and deeper —
Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry.
It felt like riding a train up a jagged mountain,
but why?

I would like to live in a world of words.
I would like to swim through them like summer water,
do backflips, underwater high-fives, twirling torpedoes.

With words, I could build imaginary trees into the sky, 
wooden rollercoasters, and labyrinths of roses.

Daria Ustiugova/Shutterstock

I would like to follow a winding road of language
to places where I don’t mind getting lost,
where I can be free
and disappear.

Endings without Goodbyes

Distance learning packets stand in towers of varying heights
on a table at the high school
I have come to take them for my daughters
but they’re really for me

I want an excuse to come inside here
before they close for good

I want to fill my arms with paper
to feel something solid
I am trying to stay afloat
in a sea of skinny blue links,
invalid usernames, and
portals that lead to no one

I scan the packet titles — World History, Biology, English —
but I don’t see my daughters’ courses
Do you have AP classes? I ask the counselor
“These are for people without internet access,” she says
and I feel embarrassed of my neediness

I take a COVID-19 fact sheet and walk out of the office
to the front door, pausing in the atrium

It smells of cafeteria food, cheap industrial cleaner, and feet
and I realize how much I love this place

Tears bulge, as my thoughts travel to
my daughter, in her last few months of senior year,
who may have to leave without saying good-bye