A can of self-defense pepper spray says it may
irritate the eyes, while a bathroom heater says it's
not to be used in bathrooms. I collect warnings
the way I used to collect philosophy quotes.
Wittgenstein's There's no such thing
as clear milk rubs shoulders with a box
of rat poison which has been found
to cause cancer in laboratory mice.
Levinas' Language is a battering ram—
a sign that says the very fact of saying,
is as inscrutable as the laser pointer's advice:
Do not look into laser with remaining eye.
Last week I boxed up the solemn row
of philosophy tomes and carted them down
to the used bookstore. The dolly read:
Not to be used to transport humans.
Did lawyers insist that the 13-inch wheel
on the wheelbarrow proclaim it's
not intended for highway use? Or that the
Curling iron is for external use only?
Abram says that realists render material
to give the reader the illusion of the ordinary.
What would he make of Shin pads cannot protect
any part of the body they do not cover?
I load boxes of books onto the counter. Flip
to a yellow-highlighted passage in Aristotle:
Whiteness which lasts for a long time is no whiter
than whiteness which lasts only a day.
A.A.'ers talk about the blinding glare
of the obvious: Objects in the mirror
are actually behind you, Electric cattle prod
only to be used on animals, Warning: Knives are sharp.
What would I have done without: Remove infant
before folding for storage, Do not use hair dryer
while sleeping, Eating pet rocks may lead to broken
teeth, Do not use deodorant intimately?
Goodbye to all those sentences that sought
to puncture the illusory world-like the warning
on the polyester Halloween outfit for my son:
Batman costume will not enable you to fly.
"Warnings" by David Allen Sullivan from Strong-Armed Angels. © Hummingbird Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)