For Larry Summers
or a joke—became an object lesson in the way
women position themselves towards science,
how they eroticize it. “Dear Physicist,
I saw your website. I want to join your lab.
I am a mermaid. I could be useful
with some of your optical, anti-vibration experiments.
I read about your project online and it excites me.
I’m including a link to some photos which I believe
you will find extremely interesting.
Do not hesitate to contact me.”
Still, I’ll state that this body, BMI unknown,
slid into tall boots, harnessed into fitted skirts,
clothed daily, weighed daily,
evaluated daily, sometimes furtively,
in the women’s locker room at the 12th Street gym,
is not, I protest, a way of looking, but a way of doing.
“Praise me,” the pamphlet at the clinic said,
“not for what I am or have, but what I do.”
And the man at the corner with the run down
cart of porn and tomatoes, well, not even porn,
just water-logged Howard Stern and water-logged
comics and bruised tomatoes,
said: “Hey, yer not gonna say hello?”
and asked for a kiss. I hid this from you,
made sure he closed his cart and left before
we walked back the same way up the street,
my street, 9th street, zip code: 19147.
I am a student of language. I do stupid
things, then confess (to me, to you) in a poem
that you may or may not read.
You’ll say I contradict me, I’m too emotional.
Yet I dream of tetrahedrons,
of “beautiful and unexpected symmetry,”
of noble metals, like gold, like opals,
or diamonds, which I admire in theory only.
The hysteria is there. A harried note to self:
“Study Plato’s solids. Master Pythagoras.
Learn about Spheres.” Hysteria,
and a willingness to find humiliation
at my very doorstep and make myself its author.
I have 80+ hours to join disconnected spheres
optimally, with elegance. Even now, scribbling,
I’ll find a thing, as you said, “like nothing
described in nature before.” If I shock you,
it’s an afterthought as I was—
close at hand, awake,
never great at math (by your standards),
yet tired of greatness, tired of standards.