Gently Used Kids

The sign hangs from swing-set chain

at the warehouse’s far end.

 

Under it, I imagine a set of risers

stocked with three rows of kids,

 

all half-tidy, dressed as if for picture day,

mussed as if by recess.

                                 Yes, I recoil, too,

 

at the word used; I, too, will my mind

to dwell on the mitigating adverb

 

even as I know there’s nothing short

of loss of life to prevent life using children.

 

. . .

 

Gently, then, I page through the isosceles

hangers whose vertices jut past

 

these small shirts’ shoulders into their sleeves,

turning each jersey toward me

 

as if to search the face of the child

who once wore, who will wear it, as if to set

 

an epaulette on each clavicle and a protection

spell: may they be gently used

 

*

Jane Zwart teaches English at Calvin University, where she also co-directs the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. Her poems have previously appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Threepenny Review, The Poetry Review (UK), and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.