page torn from his fourth-grade math book.
I’m supposed to read it, considering
how geometry and classifying shapes—
some words are highlighted so I get the gist—
might fit into dinner table chat or fights
about whose turn it is to take a bath first tonight.
I misread convert as covert and lose minutes
wondering what a covert measurement could be,
and why. But no one wants to know
they’re being measured or tested, do they?
Even though we are every day—
all our angry faces, likes, and hearts totted up,
politicians and yogurts we prefer,
a pointillist scrim gluing us to the world,
little sticky bits tracing wherever we’ve been.
But maybe I should say I not we:
I don’t like being tested.
My husband, for instance, doesn’t seem to mind—
almost high school dropout with a perfect score
on his SAT. But all those choices freeze me.
The Family Letter tells me I should
encourage your child to explain.
True or False: I am a good mother
if I am always awake and dressed before my children.
True or False: I am a bad mother.
If I give up ______and start ________ing
three to five times a week, I am a good mother/wife/other.
Please identify my lines of symmetry.
But in high school, I liked geometry,
maybe because my teacher drove a sky-blue Corvette
and wore vintage polyester skirt suits,
and maybe because the tests felt like stories
of how one shape could become another,
divided but still itself.
I liked that I could see it happening, point
by point, the way every night,
after my husband and the kids are asleep,
I go around the house clicking off each light
until I become invisible, even to myself.
About This Unit: Poems on Family and Finding Other Lines of Symmetry
ANNA V.Q. ROSS’s most recent book, Everything But the Sea, won the 2020 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2022. Her work has received fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Fulbright Foundation, and appears in the Nation, Poetry Northwest, Southern Humanities Review, the Southern Review, and elsewhere. She is poetry editor for Salamander, teaches at Emerson College, and lives with her family in Dorchester, MA, where she runs the performance series Unearthed Song & Poetry and raises chickens.