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
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 this injunction? 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. Thank you!
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 books that sought to puncture
the illusory world—not unlike the warning on the
polyester Halloween outfit I bought for my son:
Superman costume will not enable you to fly. 

“Warning:” from Strong-Armed Angels, copyright 2008 by David Sullivan, published by permission of the author.
Source: Strong-Armed Angels (Hummingbird Press, 2008)
More Poems by David Sullivan