Skipping a Friend’s Barbecue Because the Invitation Said “Family Friendly”

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Which means there will be screaming, normal kid
screaming, not pain or fear screaming, just
running screaming, running with a stick

screaming, running with a barbecue fork
screaming, oops there’s the pain screaming,
and now there are tears and blood beads

on a knee and other fluids tragically leaking.
I’d have to wade through to reach the adults
sipping beers around the grill and talking

about, of course, the children— that’s been the topic
all day, their latest allergies and scrapes,
vacation ER waiting rooms, casts

wrapped in the brightly colored gauze of their choice.
And if I tried to shift topics—“Say,
did you see the Golden State Killer appeared

in court again last week?” — I’d get the look,
which means my conversational gambit was not
appropriate, not family friendly.

Hot dogs. Potato salad that no one trusts
after the first hour. Then different tears,
deep hurt tears, an urchin at her mother’s knee

snitching that another child, hiding
behind his father’s chair, declared that he
did not like the girl, her face was ugly,

and he never would be friends with her henceforth.
Poor kid, she really believes it, cannot foresee
a life in which she won’t be lonely and unloved.

I’m home, sipping tea, imagining
the girl’s profound sorrow. The only thing
I know about children is that I used to be one.