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from The School

 

Math

Library

Social Studies




















Math

Whereby a quarter to four is greater than, less than, or equal to a half past four; whereby you must please excuse my dear aunt Sally; whereby a bushel does not equal a peck but equals a train approaching a stop at how many miles per hour when a train approaching an opposite stop at how many miles per hour equals the number of miles between the two stops minus the number of frightened passengers; whereby division is long with wrong remainders and subtraction means borrowing from the ones, and from the ones with nothing, such that even zeroes must give of themselves, must somehow become nines and tens, like those photographs of hard times that show old people and babies lugging bricks and buckets of water; whereby to multiply means X and also to add very quickly twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve plus twelve but higher than that you dared not go alone; whereby the calculator that shut itself off in the cool dark of the desk and blinked awake under the fluorescence was confiscated to the sound of little whimpers; whereby graph paper, compasses, and rulers were dignitaries of the despot who’d caused the suffering in the photograph, the destruction of the tangled happy town that the old people and babies were rebuilding, and had been rebuilding for centuries, brick by brick, degree by degree, exact measurement by exact measurement, one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand; whereby where bi where try where tri where quadruple where infinity all chomp chalk, perspire, conspire, cough dust, carry the eight

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Library

Sometimes, we were to close our eyes and use our imaginations. I couldn’t imagine anything if I couldn’t see; I kept mine open, saw birthmarks. Underwear tags. Downy hair on she-thighs, he-calves. Everyone bore the same expression. The look of the lost and the damned. A blissful, quieting look like the last bit of milk, spooned. The girl whom everyone called retarded smiled through the heads at me. Eyes opened, we smiled. Afterward, she sat at the long table, splotchy and pale. Diagonal from her, I read sentences and watched. Every night, she dreamed about the beautiful black horse. She couldn’t wait to leave the city. Father had promised her new boots and a fancy new riding crop. The girl held the book splayed and close to her face, its dull green back cover in one sweaty hand and the rest of it in the other. She leaned closer. She licked the inside of the dull green back cover hesitantly and then again, with gusto, her mouth pressing hard into the book. When she saw me, she purpled, the point of tongue still visible. A banished star. I did not look away and was rewarded when she turned the inside of the book to show me. A small, hard, grayish thing, now glistening. She saw my face and slid the book to me, and I put my tongue where hers had been. It was fresh, minty.

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Social Studies

 

Clockwise left, front row: the boy with the scar; the boy with one brown eye and one blue eye; the bow-legged girl; the girl who said “yes Ma’am,” “no, Ma’am”; the girl; the girl; second row: the boy; the girl; the knuckle-sandwich boy; the boy who once had a patch on his eye; the girl with the soft hair, its sheen like a cornhusk; the boy; third row: the girl who taught everyone the language whereby the vowel comes first and the rest of the word goes to the end with a long a sound, said her family invented it, said later she herself invented it, and twice accused me of spying; the girl with sad eyes and dark knees; the very small boy; the boy with the beautiful name and the crumbs of dirt behind his ear; the boy; the girl; fourth row: the girl who loved Abraham Lincoln; the girl; the boy who kept shoelaces and small metal figurines inside his desk; me.

The map rolled noisily down over the blackboard. The Santa Maria sailed noisily over the sea filled with noisy men hungry for spices. The noise of revolution, rebellion. In some countries, belching is considered polite, words like favorite and parlor have u’s. Everyone must pull from the box one slip of paper with a president’s name on it and write a report on him. Use clear covers. The dioramas are to be completed next week in time for Parents’ Night. Please respect the property and feelings of others. The study of countries, colonies, and cities. The study of people. The study of other people and cultures, swabbing their throats for exotic germs and watching, rapt, as they multiply and kill each other.

 

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KRISTEN ISKANDRIAN was born and raised outside of Philadelphia and currently lives outside of Athens, Georgia, in a small town called Crawford. She is a PhD student in English and creative writing at University of Georgia, where she teaches both creative writing and composition. She has work in Action Yes, and forthcoming from Spork and Pindeldyboz. Her site is Her Darling Imps.