study, nine
Jenniey Tallman

So now, we collect nine-year-olds
to examine them, study them, liquify them and see if they still hold up

Stretch them limb to limb and memorize the angles
the way light catches on thin skin
their eyes

Bend them over, turn them round, cut off their hair and sew it back on
Will. She. Hold.

hang them in the sunshine
lay them on a beach
in the back of a car
put them on a couch and turn on a movie (see what they will eat)

In the snow
On the road
Cross-legged on a sidewalk.

We should take the nine-year-olds and line them up
let's throw tomatoes at them
let's throw stones

Take away their puppies and kick them in front of their faces
kill them in front of their eyes

tickle the nine-year-olds with feathers
(see if they will laugh)

tell them jokes and juggle tangerines
Do. They. Smile.

What is wrong with these nine-year-olds

why do they smile
after their puppies have been killed?

Now let's take their mas and pas
take their mothers and hit them with their fathers

Hit. Them. Hard.

yell at them, belittle them, make the mas and pas sob

Do the nine-year-olds cry
do they yell for us to stop
do they hide under the table and close tight their weepy eyes?

Give them a tree house, give them a poem, give them to a stepmother
(see if they will burn)
feed them candy and bones

Will the nine-year-olds explode
disappear in a puff of blue smoke?

There is something wrong with these nine-year-olds
they are everywhere

on school buses, in stores, on television screens
at the library and in the magazines

they are sliding
down slides and swinging on swings

sleeping on chairs, falling off shelves
laughing, crying, walking arm-in-arm

The nine-year-olds will not be silent
they will not do as they are told
they stomp away and turn back to say

Make Me

and. we. do.

We blow their teeth across the sky
offer their eyes to the ocean

beat their bones against the floor

the beasts and monsters come round

eyes wild
and yellow teeth baring

To. Them. (to them)

we hand the nine-year-olds over.