The National Poetry Review

Jane Zwart


I envy the parents who airbrush their toddlers
with SPF 30, tagging trapezia with the practiced ease
of graffiti artists. I envy the hardier guardians,
casually spritzing their kids with deet

because the truth is that I spray-paint my sons
until their skin drips. I armor them in zinc
and repellant as conscientiously as if
such aerosols were their share of the Styx.

. . .

My boys, whom I find huddled together
in a thrift store, testing the sequin mail
of a shirt meant for clubbing, thinking it the mesh
a knight might wear–
                                   before they arrived

I did not mistake ultraviolet light for dragon’s breath
or mosquito wings for an arrow’s fletching.
Before they arrived I did not bronze shoulder pads
and call them pauldrons, did not favor

beach hats with brims so wide as to droop
into blindfolds. Into every protection spell fall
a few carcinogens. Take worry: its fussy dosage
did not worry me anything like enough.

JANE ZWART’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, and TriQuarterly, as well as other journals and magazines.

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