Eileen R. Tabios

"...you will engage in error analysis and mathematical reasoning to build critical thinking"
About California Math 1 by Ron Larson, Laurie Boswell, Timothy D. Kanold and Lee Stiff (McDougal Littell, a division of Houghton Mifflin, Evanston, IL, 2008)


CHALLENGE: The wind chill factor measures the cold based on temperature and wind speed. The wind chill factor was 18 degrees Fahrenheit at 8:00 a.m. but dropped to a negative 14 degrees Fahrenheit by 1:00 p.m. What was the change in the wind chill factor? Should the change have been affected by the tremble of your hand when you remembered how you failed to grow the most infinitesimal portion of an inch during three years of orphanage existence? What if I told you the original human was born as an adult from a split bamboo—would that diminish the nightmares ever-clawing at your mind’s eye like the windblown branches during a recent storm? Did you hear me when I tried to I soothe, “No, mi hija—they are not reaching through the glass to trade their limbs for yours…”? How many years will collapse before you turn to me one day during some unforetold moment of radical happiness—perhaps your wedding day replete with white light, white roses, white silk, white lace, all the white pearls I possess and lucid champagne?—and whisper with an unhidden note of chastisement: Mama, glass is easily broken…”?


You are stuffing doves into burlap bags. Three doves sport bicycle tattoos. Five doves wear bowler hats. Seven doves trill through red clown’s lips instead of appropriately pequeno beaks. One dove never stops winking at you. Once, you paused to scratch with a missing finger. What algebraic relationship moved you to bestow on mundane pigeons the halos of peace and other faux debris from trawling old memories of a desire-ridden imagination that would come to plummet into ruin? The question had to do with a burlap bag’s capacity for birds—a question your struggle with Fate compelled you to create to mask another question: What is the world’s capacity for your most tiny of footsteps? You, who even has memorized, “I promise to be good”? And how many hours was required for you to concede the irrelevance of any question you might author? Is that measure more or less than one day?


CHALLENGE: At a deli, ham costs $4.99 a pound. Turkey costs $5.29 per pound. You buy 1.5 pounds of turkey and 1.75 pounds of ham. Which costs more, the ham or turkey? How much more? How much more if you are making the calculation twenty years later and you’re suddenly standing frozen in another continent’s store, recalling how you never tasted meat as a child? Remembering how you survived only by forgetting everything except what you were allowed to keep because it is never used: your middle name? Recalling now how your survival requires you to master algebra when a relationship’s stability cannot be guaranteed by even the most indigenized cell memory…?

Eileen R. Tabios most recently released THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems and New 1998-2010 (Marsh Hawk Press, New York). In Spring 2011, she will release SILK EGG: Collected Novels 2009-2009 (Shearsman Books, Exeter). She concocts mischief at The Blind Chatelaine's Keys when not editing the most fun poetry review journal online, Galatea Resurrects.
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