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glean: 1. to gather slowly and laboriously, bit by bit. 2. to gather (grain or the like) after the reapers or regular gatherers. 3. to learn, discover, or find out, usually little by little or slowly. 4. to gather what is left by reapers.

Multiplication

Multiplication

 


We couldn't start until every student had a test, 

But while Mrs. Bach finished passing them out 

We stared down through the paper at the questions,

So that, when she said, tiredly, as if she had little faith 

In us, "Begin," we were already ready to answer

The first few, rattling them off the way we were made

To recite an aunt's phone number we were made

To remember. It grew harder the farther we got, 

The numbers growing larger, while Mrs. Bach paced, 

She with the composer's name, who had allowed 

The rumor that he was an ancestor to fester. 

She was stricter than our beloved Mrs. Bicker,

Left behind with the simple math of third grade.

We were in fourth now. The night before, 

We had practiced our multiplication tables 

At our kitchen tables, the tablecloth folded back.

Had we taken rubbings of the wood, old figures

Would have floated up through the paper,

Just the sums. Jesus was a multiplier, too. 

The multitudes came to hear him speak of the Kingdom 

Of Heaven but around noon found themselves 

Growing hungry. Impatient with their weakness, 

He took five loaves and two fish and multiplying 

Them by themselves made them infinite. 

Thus were the multitudes fed. Pencils down, 

Mrs. Bach said. Turn your tests over. And as 

She came around collecting them we stared 

Down through the paper again at our answers, 

The wrong ones glaring back at us

Like the Pharisees who took 

The infinite into their bodies 

But still did not believe. 

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