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Multiplication Tables

by Lisa Marie Brodsky

She’s eight – no – she’s twenty-eight,
she’s sitting at the next table, her
mother curls her arms around the girl’s shoulders.
They are practicing multiplication tables – no –
they are going over the mother’s will.
The girl has a blonde bob – no – she has brown pig-tails.
She laughs and leans against her mother – no – she
cries and rests her head
against her mother’s burning chest.
The mother is thirty-four or fifty-two,
I can’t tell.
An old woman sits at another table,
shakes as she picks her brittle bones up
and I know the mother will never
reach that age; I wonder if the girl will.

2 × 2 = 4 4 × 4 = 16 16 × 16 = 256

The girl thinks if you multiply life by life
you get more life – no – she is learning
subtraction, finally masters it at twenty-eight,
realizing if you take away one mother,
you get a negative number. She learns
what it feels like to be below ground level
and she gropes for the top – no – she’s
eight and leaning against her mother,
fingering the slick cards
in her chubby hands.


Posted on 12/31/2006
Copyright © 2020 Lisa Marie Brodsky

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