Four years old,
and I’ve already been schooled.
I know disobedient
boys split open eyebrows and bleed,
big brother Bob
is a doggone money magnet,
it’s not okay
to be naked in bed with a girl,
Quisp and Quake
may be great commercials on TV
but really not
so delicious in my cereal bowl,
big sister Elane
delights in imprisoning me indoors,
shingles and dirtclods
find open mouths when airborne—
and treble hooks
catch far more skin than fish.
When I hear
“You can be anything you want,”
I know this
to be a casually shallow lie.
By and large,
I think too much for anyone’s good.
But when Mom
asks what I want for my birthday,
I still manage
an unfathomable, bizarre request.
“A zebra cake.”
Yet I don’t really know what I ask.
“Use your words,”
they say, and I do—but still fail.
Somehow, this once,
Mom intuits my underlying desire.
My fifth birthday,
and she delivers a stunning miracle:
midnight and butter
cake mixes deftly swirled together
so every slice
sports the exotic stripes I imagined.
Oh, yes—I have been schooled:
words can create.