I was six when I was taught
to wash my hands with soap and water.

That was the age I was tall enough
to reach the sink and the bar of soap.

I learned to fill the air with reciting
one of several poems from Now We Are Six

that took at least twenty seconds
to scrub my hands long enough.

I did the math to calculate
that boys three times older than myself

fought the Vietnam War
and died in the jungles and on the hillsides.

In the TV news reels I saw
only a few of the soldiers had clean hands.

This began my daily protests.
Not about the Vietnam war.

But about washing my hands before supper
after playing baseball all afternoon.

copyright © 2021 Kenneth P. Gurney

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