Be Careful

Be Careful

by Bethany Reid

Children should come with instructions
the way a new shirt does,
Wash in cold water,
Tumble dry low heat.
Or a furnace
with the big label pasted on the outside,
Clean filter every four months.
Then when they shred under the hot iron
or blow up one January afternoon,
we can say, “I should have followed the instructions.”

Children should come like gallons of milk,
an expiration date on each lid.
Stamped on their palm,
The time will go so fast your head will spin.
At eight you’ll expect them
to love their friends best.
As sixteen as you hand over the car keys,
you won’t even say, “Be careful” –
it will be there, In the instructions
from the original box, folded
and refolded so many times now
the paper is soft as cloth.

Mother, Father, if you look
closely at your child, in the early stages,
in infancy  you see that it does
come with a warning printed in the fine,
small toes, in the folds
of the neck, in the pink gums.

Give me your heart, the child says
like an old Zen master. Carry me,
so you can be broken.

(from a literary journal: Calyx. Vol. 25 #1. Winter 2009)

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Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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