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Division Poem By Michael Chitwood

Division Poem By Michael Chitwood

Inside the shed, he’d rigged
an oil drip into the barrel stove
so that the used sludge from his trucks
burned with split hickory while he
passed the winter piecing together furniture.
Just a sideline, he’d say, aiming
down a board to judge it in or out of true.
“It fills in the down months and tacks
some cash on the end of the year.”
In those same white weeks at school
I learned division. First, you made a lean-to
for the big number to go under. The little
number waited outside. You could add on
as many zeros as you wanted.
The answer appeared on the roof.
December and January passed into February
and a whole bedroom suite came together.
On the roof, the smoke swirled into Os and 8s.

Michael Chitwood
first published in The Threepenny Review, 88, vol. XXII,
no. 4, Winter 2002

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