My Son Distrusts People Who Are Happy All the Time
what did people do before sponges / my son asks
were their dishes even clean? / what did they do / for creation myths?
historians will find our merry objects
formed a plastic layer / disposable / we throw away
everything / reddit says they used rags / empty flour sacks /
in the Reckless Decade of the late 19th century / they reused scraps
of clothing / stiff horsehair brushes / even sand
now the Laminate / the Anthropocene / an era floating atop
they used a tub for scrubbing / a bowl for rinsing / I explain
to my son / who has a general distrust of mirth / another word for God
is my stubbornly optimistic method / of blowing the contents of my nose
into a plain white hanky / I throw in the wash / over and over
Oceans are warming at the same rate as if five Hiroshima bombs
were dropped in every second
I was once floating in a bag of waters.
My mother takes out her breast
and nurses my brother, slaps my sister,
comes home from work
slumped at the table where we’ve pushed all our overcooked broccoli
on top of the plate heaped with chicken,
potatoes, her own portion of trees.
“What do I look like,
your garbage can?” she says.
“I already ate a whole bag of chips
at the office. I already ate—” she says,
forking cold meat into her mouth,
“—the waiting room was filled.
I had the woman with the ingrown toenail
who needed antibiotics, the man
with the alcohol problem and high
I’m recalling this because my teenage son too
once floated in a sack of fluid,
though I hate to remind him,
the coral is bleaching more every year.
“We could fly to Mars,” says my son,
“create an atmosphere
by melting Mars’s ice caps
by dropping millions of Hiroshimas.”
In a century or two the radiation will dissipate
as it’s doing at Chernobyl, where now vodka sellers
hawk Atomik, say it’s safe to drink.
My son wants to do that, to believe
in “Planet B,” in Elon Musk—
oxygen above water—
a kingdom of potatoes.
Josette Akresh-Gonzales was a finalist in the 2017 Split Lip Chapbook Contest. Her poems are in Breakwater, Pank,The Pinch, and elsewhere. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and two boys and bikes to work at a nonprofit medical publisher.