Ode to the Weary Math Student MAG

November 29, 2008
By Jessica Lippe, Central Point, OR

Math Student
Woe to the math student,
In an advanced class,
Who tries oh so hard,
And yet can’t seem to pass
The equations are evil,
The numbers, nonsense
And all the test grades
Contain dark suspense

Woe to the math student,
A slave to the book
Odd answers are in back –
Oh so tempting to look
Who studies for hours,
And stares at the page,
The body is paralyzed,
But inside, so much rage

Woe to the math student,
Doomed to the grave,
If surviving to the bell,
The soul may be saved,
But oh, when returned home
There awaits homework,
The student, in despair,
Calls the teacher a jerk

Woe to the math student
Who will surely die
The numbers are deadly,
And no one knows why
The brain has shut down,
The body is weak,
And oh, what’s awaiting
In math class next week?


The author's comments:
I wrote this poem last year after becoming frustrated with my pre-calculus work.

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This article has 70 comments.


Artsabi said...
on May. 8 at 12:46 am
Artsabi, Oakland, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I can't believe this was published ten years ago! Still powerful to this day.

on Sep. 4 2017 at 11:11 am
socialkaysualty PLATINUM, Dover, Delaware
25 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.



So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?



And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.



And should I then presume?



And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? ...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head



Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;



That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:



“That is not it at all,



That is not what I meant, at all.”

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

this is way too relatable

JessicaLippe said...
on Feb. 9 2016 at 12:49 pm
This was one of my first published pieces seven years ago. I'm now a professional writer and editor, but Facebook wanted to remind me of this poem today. Still one of my favorite things I've written. (And even after all those years of advanced math, I ended up in a career where it's almost entirely literary!)

on Sep. 16 2014 at 1:18 am
HafsaAhmed PLATINUM, Karachi, Other
22 articles 2 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
I don't believe in angry arguments , I believe in silent revenge.

Revenge doesn't merely means hurting others, it sometimes mean being a better person than you were yesterday.

i love this poem even though i love maths and my math's teacher!

on May. 29 2014 at 7:29 pm
raysofsunshine GOLD, Lakebay, Washington
17 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It's not about the happy ending, it's about the story."

I like your tone throughout the poem! The theme of the poem is definently relatable, math teachers give a large amount of homework and it is not fun to do! The use of language in this poem clearly captures your feelings for the subject, good job!

im_gail BRONZE said...
on Nov. 7 2013 at 9:41 pm
im_gail BRONZE, Barrington, Rhode Island
2 articles 1 photo 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"these moments will be stories one day"- Perks of Being a Wallflower

this was so great because it is so relatable yet very well written

Abby96 BRONZE said...
on Feb. 7 2013 at 5:06 pm
Abby96 BRONZE, Leesburg, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 26 comments
So relatable! No matter how hard I try I can never excell at math...

emsolsen said...
on Sep. 13 2012 at 5:29 pm
love love love!!!

KatsK DIAMOND said...
on Jun. 5 2012 at 4:18 pm
KatsK DIAMOND, Saint Paul, Minnesota
57 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind.
~Hans Hofmann
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury

It took me three hours to do 10 Trig problems (because yes, you should do Trig for one day in 8th grade) and I still failed the assignment.

KatsK DIAMOND said...
on Jun. 5 2012 at 4:17 pm
KatsK DIAMOND, Saint Paul, Minnesota
57 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
Being inexhaustible, life and nature are a constant stimulus for a creative mind.
~Hans Hofmann
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
~Ray Bradbury

Yeah, I failed several tests this year, and got C- or lower on almost all of my homework. We had a teacher who didn't teach very well, and I'm in the advanced class. She always talked about how smart we were because we're in the advanced class. None of us (except for the geniuses who're good at everything) understood it.

on May. 31 2012 at 12:24 pm
Alyssa.N.S. BRONZE, Toledo, Ohio
4 articles 0 photos 12 comments
So true!!! Wonderful poem!

on Jan. 31 2012 at 10:46 am
Sweetie2toCute SILVER, Brookyln, New York
8 articles 0 photos 5 comments
I Know How You Feel Bout The Math In Math Class. Math Isnt My Best Subject. Anywhoo I Like This Poem Alot.

Ben Overon said...
on Jan. 17 2012 at 6:37 pm
Well, you describe the feeling of math class (or class in general) very well. The poem is quite relatable. The meter is odd (an attempt at ballad meter? Certainly not iambic...), and the rhyme scheme is subtle enough to go almost unnoticed, but a valid (and valiant!) attempt at an Ode. I like it very much :) *bookmarks page* *shares*

on Jan. 15 2012 at 11:05 pm
Brooklynfyre PLATINUM, Pierceton, Indiana
28 articles 1 photo 9 comments
darn it was supposed to go under someone elses comment, oops lol

on Jan. 15 2012 at 11:04 pm
Brooklynfyre PLATINUM, Pierceton, Indiana
28 articles 1 photo 9 comments
I know exactly how you feel math is a very easy class for me and once i took over the substitutes spot as the teacher the whole period, just cause i knew what i knew what i was doing.

NERDYCHICK said...
on Jan. 9 2012 at 1:56 pm
Advanced math since 5th grade... I totally sympathize. It's killing me now!

eliana924 GOLD said...
on Dec. 18 2011 at 9:19 pm
eliana924 GOLD, New York, New York
11 articles 0 photos 116 comments
I happen to love math, but your poem is so great that I feel I'm in your shoes.

on Dec. 2 2011 at 5:09 pm
Sophia.Veritas SILVER, Na, California
8 articles 0 photos 20 comments

Favorite Quote:
Jane Eyre:

"You examine me, Ms. Eyre. Do you think me handsome?"
...
"No, sir."

In advanced math since 4th, but this...at points and with finals so true.......

DebSham SILVER said...
on Nov. 4 2011 at 5:36 pm
DebSham SILVER, Marlton, New Jersey
8 articles 11 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You are the object of your own action"- thought of this one on my own.
"Just Keep Moving Forward"- Meet the Robbinsons, my all-time favorite movie

oh my gosh seriously was the story of my life! Have to study for many hours to do well in math!

great poem!


on Sep. 27 2011 at 8:03 pm
raggedyanarchy PLATINUM, Jackson, Mississippi
31 articles 3 photos 13 comments
SO relatable.........i can't do math to save my life. And i got put in this advanced class when i so obviously deserve to be in the normal.




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