Inappropriate Gifts for Infants

by a contributor

John A. McDermott

I wasn’t about to bring a yo-yo,
she wasn’t going to buy dyes from China,
anything with a sharp edge or poking
or pinching potential, nothing jagged.
We were still childless, but not witless.
We remembered the holiday headlines,
The Five Worst Toys for Toddlers and The Ten
Recalled Bears That Kill and Eight Deadly Dolls.
But these tiny plastic babies seemed right—
coddled in clear cellophane, cherubic,
both smiling, pink lips and rosy cheeks, peach-
crayon skin, still tinier white diapers—
right for little beds in little houses,
the sort our friend collected, her daughter
would inherit someday, years from this day.

Looking back, yes, they were choking hazards,
temptations to pass little gums and lodge
in her throat, her narrow esophagus.
Maybe this was some sick subliminal
menace we introduced into her house,
her latest addition yet another unintentional
mockery of our empty crib. But, no, we didn’t plan
it. They’re clearly not toys for play, they’re stamped
But maybe that’s just what attracted us,
we understood FOR DECORATIVE USE
ONLY, our girl and boy parts just for show,
nothing to prove they had a true function,
all our intentions coming up empty
month by month by month, year by year by year.
Should she have screamed at us? Nobody died—
one whap on baby’s back and the dolls popped
right out of her contorted mouth, like twins.
Even the baby could produce babies,
that’s what I saw, when I stooped to the floor,
more newborns, wet and sticky, but all there,
ten fingers and ten toes, and still not ours.

John A. McDermott’s poetry and fiction have appeared in journals such as Alaska Quarterly Review, Cutbank, Cream City Review, Meridian, and Seneca Review. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, he now teaches creative writing and American literature at Stephen F. Austin State University, where he coordinates the BFA program.