by Tim Seibles

You know how tiny kids walk up to you, raise their arms
and expect to be picked up—I used to do that; that was me.

Me, with my diaper full and my nose half-crusty.

I remember being eye to eye with the little doors
underneath the kitchen sink—I was a child seriously.

I used to yank open those cabinets and see the shiny colors
and glass: the orange box of Tide, the pink bottle leaking
dishwashing liquid, a green Pine Sol thing with big yellow letters.

Of course, I couldn’t read and before I could touch anything
my mom was snatching me back, slapping my hands—

that shit hurt! My hands were really little, really
new, like shoots fresh out of the ground,
really soft—I was a child. Is that clear?

People just put me to bed whenever they felt like it.
People sat me on the potty every other whenever
and said Go!

I didn’t have any words, just sloppy, muddy kinds of garbled
that wanted to be words, that tried to be wordish—

Think of the amount of criticism I got. Criticism piled on
like cold cream of wheat.

It was like I couldn’t do anything right—not a goddamn thing!

Picture me in a high chair being pressured to eat—
they might have been dangling a secret agent off a cliff
trying to make him give up something top-secret—

I was little; my legs hardly held me up; everybody
stood around poised to catch me—
Ooops! Oooopsy! Whoops-a-daisy!

How could I get my confidence?

But now I’m big, I eat ice cream all the time—I’m big; I use
the Men’s room; nobody tells me what to do,

even though I feel like I’m holding on to my life the way a
wounded ant clings to a window screen. I’m

big now. Big and musty. Big enough to hide my baby shoes
in the palm of one hand.

But once I was a kid. I didn’t
need deodorants. I sat on my grandmother’s lap
and ate candy spearmint leaves.

I wasn’t down on white people. I
didn’t even know I was black. My whole bag
was cartoons—I was a child, goddammit!

Just a mouthful of Tonka Toys and Lego,
a little guy with no sense of time passing.
Where was everybody going? What happened to Johnny Quest?!

Next thing I know, I got this hardie thumping around on my
every morning, fearless, like my own bad-ass rooster—
sun-up and cock-a-doodle-doo! I couldn’t pee with it and
nobody would tell me what it was for.

I wasn’t always so worldly. I wasn’t always a madman
over women’s legs, either. I spent my first fifteen years
without a real kiss.

I was a child. You think I don’t remember?!
You think it’s easy keeping all this innocence pent up inside?!

And now, when it comes to money, I’m like some dizzy insect
full of wanting it, like some big bluebottle fly
tipsy over a mound of shit.

I wasn’t always like this.

Parts of me starting getting large, growing hair:
my underarms, my wrists, even the tops of my feet.

But I was a little boy once: really curious, really small, really

Is that clear?

Last updated September 09, 2022