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POETRY Math Lesson Native Daughter Driving north and east, coming to the place where the imaginary edges of three states shoulder up beneath long pine shadows, I feel the butterflies begin. Leaving Texas, for whatever reason, is always a risk like crossing the room at a sixth grade dance, the line of boys on the other side full of possibility, rejection. My life, with its phone calls and appointments, routines and expectations, occasionally sends me packing, headed for the border, led by the urge to dance. But a few nights away will be enough. Before long, I will come waltzing back, all smiles and tears an empty chair among friends looking better than ever. Counting by twos, we get to forty-six, and I stop. I want to teach these children more than ancient figures scratched on paper or hung in white chalkdust. I want them to feel the angled elbow of the four against the silky slide of the six. I want them to imagine a handful of nearly fifty feathers thrown into the wind or four dozen dainty painted eggs and two more that cracked into tiny mosaics. I would like to lay forty-six words out on a table and let them find a thousand pieces of poetry. I want to ask each child to cry forty-six tears so we can see how little difference crying makes. But, instead, I hold a sliver of chalk letting it dissolve as I slice down the four, then cross it hard and sit the six beside it. I ask them to remember twenty-three times two and thirty-four plus twelve and one hundred minus fifty-four, hoping silently that some of them will see the poems and feathers and eggs and tears I would rather teach. Ann McCrady Anne McCrady grew up writing her own stories, songs, poems, and essays. Her work has been published in several anthologies and journals, including The Poetry Society of Texas Yearbook, Lilliput Review, and The Midwest Poetry Review. An experienced storyteller and public speaker, for the past 10 years she has been visiting schools, churches, libraries and festivals, sharing stories and delivering a message. “My goal is always to entertain audiences and readers,” she says, “but more than that, to remind them of the astounding, positive power of language in our lives.” She lives in Henderson. Naomi Shihab Nye 8/29/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21