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.