Thirteen Ways of Saying "No"
(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)
First there is the whine and the shriek
the lips clamped over bare gums,
head roving side-to-side to avoid
the spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes.
Then there's "un-uh" and index finger
and middle finger tapped to thumb ––
baby sign language for "NFW."
There is the traditional "no" of
course, yelled or shouted or
chanted –– "nononononononono."
Then comes "I'd rather not." Who
can spoon casserole onto the
plate of a three-year-old who
would "rather not" eat it?
And then "Circle with a line
through it." As in, "Circle with
a line through it zucchini."
There are the chest-racking sobs all
the way home from the thrift store
where you picked up an infant carseat.
(Translation: "No baby brothers.)
Now there is, "I'll do it later," and
"After I finish this chapter," and
"I'm playing guitar right now, Mom."
The thirteenth and final no (you know
this is not true; there is no end of no)
will be the no that means, "I'm got this.
I'm all set. I don't need you any more"