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Multiply (for Tom) by Barbara Fletcher
published in Volume 9, Issue 1 on March 1st, 2002

There are ten times as many weeds this year.
My hands reach down between wet green leaves
search with uncertain fingers for foreign
plant life cloaked by beans and peppers.
Dew clings to my fingers, paints
iridescent lines of water across skin
as I pull my hands up from the jungle of leaves,
weeds exploding water drops in a multitude of directions.

Tom had told me that during the Depression
his mother enforced math lessons
as they spent hours hunched over the garden
plucking dandelions and Queens Anne's Lace
from between the vegetables to a rhythmic
recitation of 12 X 5, 12 X 6, 12 X 7 --
each weed a deliberate act of accretion.
His mother remained silent as they divided
corn from velvetleaf, peas from pepperweed
until it was time for a new table; then 13 and 14
snapped from her lips like green stalks
between determined fingers. Applying math
to nature was his mother's faith that
the carrots, turnips, and onions would multiply
beneath their fingers, bring enough potatoes
to divide amongst kith and kin for another year.

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