Oats and May
by Johnson Cheu


Grandpa empties the last of the oatmeal
___into the pot, prepares
to dispose of the canister


___when he discovers you
watching him.
___You hug the canister.


Curiosity engaged, you look
___for the broken seal,
attempt to pry lid


___from canister, mimicking him.
You can't. You wait, watch
___him unscrewing the lid, the mystery


opening up. You remain rapt
___for hours, screwing, unscrewing,
peering into the cavern, your voice echoing.


___The canister becomes a cardboard wagon,
or a bongo drum, as you march
___from kitchen, to foyer, to living room, and back.


Watching you, drumming the canister,
___my mind wanders to retarded children
fed radioactive oatmeal --


___the effects documented, but undisclosed.
The government claimed the daily dose,
___minute, harmless.


Why didn't they experiment
___on their own children--
Watching you, not retarded,


___I am curious who or
what determines
___expendability


"Oats and May": Students at the Fernald School for the developmentally disabled citizens were part of medical experiments and human research from the 1920s to the 1950s. The incident referred to was a nutrition study conducted by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is only one of several cases where mentally retarded citizens were the human subjects in experiments commissioned by the United States government. (from reports in The Boston Globe and other newspapers).






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