To unravel a word problem is to get rid of what you do not need to solve it. To translate a recipe is to venture into a forest of herbs and tubers that will stain your fingertips. To render love means to speak in tongues and be slain in the spirit. To offer advice is to admit that you think that you know better. To keep a secret means living inside a helium balloon. To bite off more than you can chew shows your desire to be greater than you are. To tell someone about your dreams means trusting the road while driving blindfolded. Or to live inside the limbo of fever, swim in its vacancy and froth is to pleasure in merely circling. But more often than not, when solving a word problem, “difference” means that you should subtract and “sum” means that you should add. So go ahead and highlight the important parts. Read the problem entirely. Draw pictures if you need to but don’t try to solve for it when you’ve read the problem only halfway through.
Today the sky is a glass of spilled milk. Gnats caught in a spider’s skein. The mountains gone. It’s 8:30. There is a brother meeting with his attorney. Maybe it’s his third sentencing. His cheap suit shines under the courtroom lights. He’s serious. There are two children. They have wide faces you can’t hate. But this isn’t real. It’s Friday. It’s hot. The brother fidgets a little. He’s looking around for possibilities-an audience-a sister-a courtroom comedy. Remember, this isn’t real. There is no sister, so there is no brother. He’s a hologram. He shifts in his seat. He wants to die, to be buried up to his chin. He is alone. He is a fake. The sky-red-hot with light. Gnats moving off to still water. Mountains in sight. It’s not Friday. It’s May. The lake choked with belts of reed. Banks of red dust. Today there is no judge. There is no courtroom. No brother, no sister, no son.