When I was eight years old I mangled
the index finger of my right hand on a broken
bottle and my mother put a bandage on it.
Once a day I would remove the bandage
and spray RAID into the wound.
I did this for weeks,
until the flesh around my finger stank.
I don’t know why I did it,
or why I stopped,
but I do know the slogan on the can said
KILLS BUGS DEAD
and that a suicidal poet
was its author.
I was raised on Wonder Bread and Kool-Aid
in one of the first American cities to have fluoridated water.
The water tower was lined with lead
and the cavities in my teeth were filled with mercury.
During the summer months the mosquitoes were murder.
Parents would douse their offspring with insect repellent
before allowing them outdoors.
My Uncle Jack owned a cherry farm,
and on Sundays my cousins and I would run wild
in the orchard behind his house,
pelting one another with cherries until our shirts were stained red,
the hissing arms of pesticide sprayers all around us,
our sun-red skin slick and shiny,
and later, over ice cream, young soldiers
keeping us safe from the commies in Vietnam,
blown to bits on Uncle Jack’s color TV
while we watched the Nightly News.