“Mathematician” by Poetra Asantewa #PoetryMonth

Poetra Asantewa is a Ghanaian poet, performer, writer and designer. Her debut EP, Naked Ones, was released in 2015 (listen on SoundCloud). This poem is stunning and sobering.


You’ve always been good at math
From the one plus ones to the 3x²-2xy + c
To 3 times the square root of four divided by 5 times 9 equals 10.8 and nothing less
To Pythagorean theorem tangents
You’ve always been good at math
So you knew, that good grades + firm hands +
a patient heart raised to the power three,
equaled the start of a great nursing career
And good looks + great hips multiplied by excellent cooking,
a healthy dose of attraction, lots of ambition,
with a common denominator of relentless love equaled a great marriage
And great genes, great timing, 3 ounces of good loving
and a little bit of skill equaled a beautiful son.
And when his first word was mama, your heart did a thump thump sound
your mind will later learn to calculate
And when he learned how to walk on his own without your hands to guide his tiny little feet,
you sucked your teeth because that was an equation solved right.
And when his grade was a metaphor for excellence,
you were not surprised because you wrote that expression
And when he was ten and he told you he was going to be an engineer,
you smiled because tick tock, tick tock –
it was all coming together;
You have always been good at math.
And when he’s 14, there’s a new tik, but it’s not on your watch.
It’s not part of the equation. Nobody ever fits sentences into a quantum theory.
But you don’t lose your balance because blood doesn’t burn easy
And when addiction lives so comfortably in his body that you no longer recognize
the boy you made with your own body, you do not stumble
And when you are forced to build bars to shut your own baby out,
you tell yourself you’re drowning and you must teach yourself how to swim
before your lungs collapse
And when you wrestle a knife out of his hands,
you wonder if you will get this equation right.
And your heart is breaking, and you can’t pray it away,
you can’t beg it away, you can’t work it away,
you can’t starve it away, you can’t drive it away,
you can’t threaten it away. You can’t even therapy it away
And so you strangle it.
You strangle the very life you pushed out.
You tug and pull and squeeze, until there is no more heart to break
And you wonder to yourself,
if you were ever really good at this thing called math
—– by Poetra Asantewa

(Poet’s Note: Ellen Pakkies, a Lavender Hill mother whose 20 year-old son Abie exemplified the zombified, kleptomaniac ‘tik monsters’ that prowl the streets of Lavender Hill, had tried everything she could think of to get him off the addictive tik. But after more than six years of living hell, she decided she could take no more. On a cold morning in September 2007 she tied a rope around Abie’s neck, and strangled him to death.)




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