Lauren Schmidt: The Box Marked “F”

        For Michael

You grip your youngest son by his two ankles
        and peel him open from his diaper like a lid
                from a tin can. He is rolled back, his rubbery

bottom aimed at the sky, so you can clean the ample
        spattering of shit between his cheeks. You get some
                on your hand, but this does not

bother you. By rote, you grab a fresh-wipe,
        wring it between your palms, a mechanic
                ragging his hands after an oil change.

Your indifference to shit is no surprise to me,
        brother, for you have always been crude
                and flatulent, unapologetic for either,

but, as you toss the fresh-wipe away, you say
        it’s going to be my responsibility to clean
                our parents’ messes when they’re old.

Though it will be years before our parents need wiping,
        you were much too quick to assign the filthy labor to me,
                the only daughter, the only box marked F,

the only one in the family who has no practice
        wiping anyone’s ass but her own. Not even
                our other brother, aged between us—

who has two boxes marked F on top of his own to clean—
        is in line for the job. But before I can protest,
                I watch you palm a mixture of your son’s

snot and drool and smear it on the rug next to you.
        I imagine our parents, saggy and gray,
                scurrying to make it to the bathroom in time,

clutching their flat behinds, and I laugh because,
        brother—father to only sons—one day you will
                have to drag your ass along the carpet.



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