The diapers. I change.
I change diapers.
I change the children’s diapers.
I lift them onto a cushioned table designed for said purpose,
adorned with blue disposable gloves,
and remove any clothing in the way,
until behold! Alas:
the Velcro-sealed, padded, body trash bag
known as a diaper.
I peel it back—each one a surprise
depending on limitless combined factors of diet, digestion, biology, and chemistry:
like the magenta remains following beet day,
or aqua-marine after eating artificially colored birthday cake frosting—
each unique in consistency, color, and stench.
My job, as a preschool teacher,
is to wipe the
soil, we shall say,
off and out of the still forming unmentionables
of these two and three year old humans
while holding my breath for as long as I can
to hurriedly deposit the wraiths like a ghost buster
deep into the odor-sealed storage containment diaper pail,
then breathe a half-fresh, half-
lingering breath of
what I hope is mostly air,
distracting my gag reflexes from launching the contents in my stomach.
How both the child and I come out of this clean
is no mere success,
but a small miracle.
But, even there on the changing table,
every moment is a teaching opportunity,
so I inform the child of how poop is made,
saying: “The good food goes in up top
and the bad stuff comes out the bottom—
your bottom that is my friend.”
And they respond with infectious giggles
and clever inquiries like,
“Can I touch it?”
To which I reply,
“I, the Diaper Swiper, find germs might hurt you who peruse your gooey poo,
so no, you cannot touch it!”
To which they respond,
“You silly Midder Garret.”
And I know,
multiple times per day I perpetuate this;
I feed them.
I supply these fecal factories the stuff they need
to keep producing more.
And yet how could I not?
How could I help myself
with each curly or straight lock of their crowns,
each small-toothed round dimple-cheeked smile,
each mirror-image daybreak flashlight eye gleam?
How could I resist perpetuating their changes
from bottles to blocks to balls to ballet
to bikes and beyond?
Could I forget that not long ago
I was helpless, vulnerable,
dependent on some older, wiser, more-able being
I, with the spark of life
without the knowledge of how to keep fire going.
Could I forget each maternal or paternal sacrifice
or the faces of each of the people I peed on?
The fire of me tended with care so long,
how could I not lend mine to fuel theirs?
When I signed up for this job,
I knew my hands would serve their turn at the changing table,
but never could have known what would happen there.
For it was there where countless children forgot I was an employee,
forget my name,
and called me “Dad.”
It was there where Weston told me that he loved me more
than a monster truck shark,
giving me the highest possible compliment in the known toddler universe,
ushering me to tears,
not only from an olfactory response to the death in his diaper,
but also from cardiac growing-pains—
my heart enlarging.
When I accepted this position
I agreed to feed and nurture,
teach and train,
and yes, to change their diapers,
but there were no notices
these new to life half-lings,
these my new friends,
would so greatly
How you move
You can tell a Birch tree
by the peeling white,
scroll-forming pages of its bark,
the clothes it wears to cover up its truth,
like I wore as an elementary student
dressed in construction paper and staples
for the school play.
You can tell a Magnolia
by its giant white,
the way your irises take them in with tired but desperate hands,
the way tears come at the dawn of hope
after Winter’s harsh bone gray.
You can tell a Blueberry
by its flowering white
The way they hang
like silken slips beneath the hip, hip-shaped skirts
of ladies in the fifties,
briefly adorned in Spring before disrobed
to bear their ripened fruit,
providing relief to thirsty tongues
You can tell an Apple
by the crisp white
flesh within its star seeded pomes
the way its arms hold such peel-wrapped,
an offering for bugs
and free school lunch kids,
But if you tell any of these plants
I don’t think they’ll understand.
will only prompt,
fresh breaths of air:
your carbon dioxide exhaled.
Your words, to them,
are miracle grow, 1-up, health-boost respirators
supplying the very essence of warm nourishment.
And I can tell that you
already know this.
But I’ll tell you again to remind,
that sometimes it’s not about the words that you say
but the way you move
the ones you tell.