“Think of the Children!” by Michael Ferris

Michael Ferris

          for the Reverend Mrs. Lovejoy

We hear the woe and wailing
almost every day:
the entrails of a plane wreck,
a twister’s hop-scotch prey
“included several children”
the breathless news crews say.
As if that were the kernel
of the catastrophe.

No pledge a politician’s
plaited tongue can take
won’t sound a bit more sacred
than “for our children’s sake.”
Those vows are tinker-toys,
such fun to rig and make;
how quickly we outgrow them—
how easily they break!

But I have read my Calvin,
my Shakespeare, my St. Paul—
and every bud has canker;
we’re wormy apples, all.
Observe a schoolyard playground,
the sticks and stones, the brawls:
the innocence of children—?
That’s so much folderol.

Freud dwells on children’s cruelty;
Kant spares no sapling guilt:
“From mankind’s crooked timber,
no straight thing can be built.”

We seek the soul of goodness
unadulterate and pure—
we find it in the children,
the kind we never were …

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011

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