Mom once told me that in the Soviet Union
parents wouldn’t let their children play in the mud
because they were poor and the washing was hard,
and I think about how even in America and not-poor
she wouldn’t let me, either; how I want to pull my son
from the muck, rinse him off, put him in a fresh diaper;
how his laughter is as pure as the near-summer birds
rinsing in the puddles, as the blades of grass
shaking themselves dry in the gentle breeze.
Whatever the purpose of childhood beyond learning
to read and count, to say please and thank you,
it is this: to persist in playing long after Dada says
it’s time to go home, until, cold, wet, and hungry,
you throw a tantrum you’ll have long forgotten by the
time you are warm and clean, happily eating lunch.