If it’s the moon, call it the moon;
there’s no better way to say it.
But ask the child the color of the sky,
and he will say water, and that will also
be true. Ask what the bear says, and he
will say salt. Also true. And what makes
the cake sweet is stars and a wagon makes
the grass grow. The child knows sleep
is a song and story is a boat and all it takes
to get to heaven is a ball of twine. But
if you tell a child Water is no color and salt
is no language, he will try very hard not to make
the same mistake again. Quiz him and he won’t
be shy to say he has learned the truth.
So we mustn’t say of guns They’re only flowers.
And it would never be fair to say of war It’s a big house
where you can live when you are good and proud. We know
the moon isn’t a man inviting a child to come and live
among all the stars, so why say Go make a mess
of the woods and signal your success with loud shouts and give
yourself up to the sky: by this we’ll know you’re true.
Why say God is watching the fight so shoot straight
for heaven? Instead say All questions are yours
and Open everything and Yes.
Ashley McWaters has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Alabama, where she is Coordinator of Undergraduate Creative Writing in the English Department. Her first poetry collection, Whitework, was published by Fairy Tale Review Press in 2009.