When they come, they come in boxes.
They’re do-it-yourself kits, packaged with batteries and styrofoam,
Goody bags the siblings get at birthday parties, perhaps,
Or the dog the family eagerly promises to love and take care of forever—
Go fetch, they say, the red rubber ball a blur against the blue background.
First, he is gazed at,
silently. a few, long,
And then it’s snatched by the nurses in bloody white coats who have babies waiting at home
Snipping first then plopping it down, putting a diaper round it with gloved hands,
Sticking things in its ears and mouth, wrapping measuring tapes round its flailing limbs,
Poking and prodding, weighing and—is she picking its nose?—yellow tubes,
Pressing its feet with a foul black gunk and then imprinting them in the outlined box on the paper,
Now swaddling it in heavy blankets, and finally, depositing it into weak, waitful arms.
Throughout the entire process, his eyes stay firmly shut.
He wails whenever he feels particularly irritated by the nurses’ antics,
Absentminded, abrupt sobs, tiny and tearless,
Just being, responding, experiencing and
Later, they’ll coo, then yell, then scream, and crawl and walk and fall and talk and fight,
Sucking their thumbs and drinking milk, liking Frosted Flakes more than Cap’n Crunch,
They’re growing taller and learning, trying out swear words and books, realizing that they exist,
And soon they’re doing their homework and learning to ride their bikes and smiling at babies,
Now they stop doing their homework and they remove the training wheels and
Make babies cry because they’re big kids and jealousy and hate and ego and greed and malice,
And the ones who live in the suburbs will know their mailmen by name.
One day, he’ll come to the front of a classroom and tell the whole world,
“I am here, and I am ready to be judged.
I am ready to be categorized, I am ready to be labeled,
And I am ready for you to accept me.
And I will allow you, because I have no choice, to measure me,
To poke and prod me, to gauge my reactions,
To swaddle me, to choke me with your waitful, weak arms.”
And he’ll dance on a sea of pacifiers to the sound of plastic crunching underfoot.
Not long after all that, they get bored, and not long after that, they get boring.
And because mailmen don’t like to give or tell you boring things,
(Though sometimes we have to, and you can call 1-917-613-6375 with any complaints),
I’ll leave you with this, until next time,
And it makes me laugh, or cry, if it’s that kind of day:
When they go, they go in boxes.
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