The Land of Eternal Verities: There You Are, Pet


People in this country speak to children and their pets
in baby talk. It isn’t clear why this is so.
Pets are predesigned to die of this,

and those who mourn them, to buy others that won’t last.
Children of such parents, seeing what their parents do,
believe that they are doomed as well to die of baby talk.

A few of them make early plans to leave.
Others stay at home and hope their parents will forget
the spell that binds them to their fate, or that the tyrants will relent.

Later, if they have the luck to live, they turn the tables,
packing parents off to cabins that they’ll visit,
bearing taunts in baby talk.

Pets are not allowed inside these haunts.
Furniture removal vans form queues around the block
when parents use up all their air and wills are read:

it is the custom of this country to compete for parking space,
locate all evidence of parents, and disperse it
to avoid the mummy’s curse.

Always, on the edge of this charade,
a child’s life-long examination, where it has to guess the questions
and the answers, will begin.

There is a syllabus for this, in baby talk:
it is a language stuffed with images and figures
from a country where the people are enchanted

by the thought that they are childlike for eternity.
Meanwhile, Rome collapses every moment in the pillow-talk
of citizens of this land who await their tyrant children

who will one day pack them in the tiny cabins,
and who’ll speak to them in language
that would make a pet cat laugh.

from The Sweeping Plain (River Road Press, 2007), Michael Sharkey 2007, used by permission of the author and River Road Press

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