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Talk Nerdy To Me
In keeping with our Portland/Brooklyn theme, we bring you a poem from issue 38, which finds Matthew Dickman, our Poetry Editor (and poem-by-mail champion), wrestling with the age old question of how to use math as a weapon of love.
By Matthew Dickman
The skinny girl walking arm-in-arm
with her little sister
is wearing a shirt that says
T A L K N E R D Y T O M E
and I want to.
I want to put my bag of groceries down
beside the fire hydrant
and whisper something in her ear
about long division.
I want to stand behind her and run
a single finger down her spine
while she tells me about all her correlatives.
Maybe she’ll moan a little
when I tell her that x equals negative-b
plus or minus the square root
of b-squared minus four (a)(c) all over
2A. I have my hopes.
I could show her my comic books
and PlayStation. We could pull out
my old D&D cards
and sit in the basement with a candle lit.
I know enough about Dr.Who
and the Starfleet Enterprise
to get her shirt off, to unbutton her jeans.
We could work out string theory
all over her bedroom.
We could bend space together.
But maybe that’s not what she’s asking.
The world’s been talking dirty
ever since she’s had the ears to listen.
It’s been talking sleazy to all of us
and there’s nothing about the hydrogen bomb
that makes me want to wear a cock ring
or do it in the kitchen while a pot of water boils.
Maybe, with her shoulders slouched
the way they are and her long hair
covering so much of her face,
she’s asking, simply, to be considered
something more than a wild night, a tight
curl of pubic hair, the pink,
complicated structures of nipples.
Maybe she wants to be measured beyond
the teaspoon shadow of the anus
and the sweet mollusk of the tongue,
beyond the equation of limbs and seen
as a complete absolute.
And maybe this is not a giant leap
into the science of compassion, but it’s something.
So when I pass her
I do exactly what she has asked of me,
I raise my right hand and make a V
the way Vulcans do when they wish someone well,
hoping she gets what she wants, even
if it has to be in a galaxy far away.
Matthew Dickman is the author of two chapbooks, Amigos and Something about a Black Scarf, and two full-length poetry collections. His first book, All-American Poem, was winner of the 2008 American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry, published by American Poetry Review and distributed by Copper Canyon Press. His second full collection of poetry, Mayakovsky’s Revolver, was published by Norton in 2012.