One can only do so much

Before I left for school each day,
my parents liked to remind me
to straighten my spine or ribbon,

to tie my shoelace or tuck the edge
of my camisole back under my blouse.
And did I forget my science workbook,

the paper sack which held my snack,
the folding umbrella in case
it rained? Was there lead

in my pencil, and was it sharpened
to a point; enough ink in the plastic
barrel of my yellow ballpoint pen?

Did I know whom to call in case
of an emergency, did I have
that list of numbers more

valuable than gold? Each day when I
walked out the door and into
the world, I was taught

to rehearse for every dire
circumstance or happenstance
the future might or might not

hold: a car running me over
in the busy street, a fall
to knock me unconscious

under a bridge; a hand
to snatch me into a dim alley
from which I’d possibly never

emerge. But I was young
and fearless, still untried.
I never thought to take all

their dire pronouncements
too seriously; never guessed
the real extent of their fears.

Mark my words, you’ll see,
they cried: one day you too
will know what it’s like.


In response to Via Negativa: Human resources.

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