Steven loved to multiply,
and multiplying somethings was a something
Steven liked to do—
and he would try, and try, and try,
but the somethings he would multiply
were never what his teacher
or his preacher
or any other logical creature
thought he ought to do:
an apple times an orange times a syringe times a truck
but isn’t two plus two.
“Four,” said Steven sullenly,
“and three by three
and even duller.
I stultify and pine
till I can multiply a book
times a giggle times a wink
and cross it with a color.”
Why he would multiply examples, given ample
time, or a needle times a sample
of a new non-carbonated cherry-flavored drink.
“There’s hardly any limit to the things that scamp’ll try!
A trampoline, a grape,
a daisy times an ape!
Why, Steven, why?”
his exasperated teachers and his parents used to cry.
“Well . . . I like to multiply,”
was his reply,
and they would moan.
“And if you multiply a sum,
that’s good for handling money—
but interest isn’t interesting—
whereas a dewdrop times a drum
or burlap times a stone . . . ”
And everyone who loved him would hold his ears and groan.
“Steven,” they told him, “this simply isn’t funny.
You’ve got to learn to figger.”
“Whereas,” he said, “with numbers, when you cross them,
they get bigger, ever bigger,
but never any different (except for odd and even).
Whereas with diamonds times a butterfly
or horses times the rain,
you can tell you’re out-of-doors,
though the product is, of course,
a little prickly to explain.”
“And that’s the sort of thing I like to multiply,”
© Jack Butler