by Christine Calella

In preschool they taught us to wash our hands
because playing with others made us dirty
you would catch something if the tips of your fingernails weren’t white
tiny fingers in the basin
scrub, scrub, scrubbing
like Pontius Pilate
crying, “out, out damn spot,”
but the Roman’s hands were already clean
even if his heart was heavy like a stone
I was taught that stones should never be thrown
especially by people in glass houses
I was hit by a rock on the playground anyway
and I thought that if people kept
tap, tap tapping
on the glass panels of my house
I might as well throw stones back at them
even if it made my hands dirty
I wash my hands after fighting with others
so I don’t get sick
I was taught that sickness can be cured by bathing in the right river
and always saying “please and thank you”
to the right people at the right moments
would Lady Macbeth’s hands have been cleaner
and Pontius Pilate’s too
if they had said “please and thank you” more often?
The children were taught to keep 
pick, pick, picking
until the tips of their fingernails were red
and my children will be taught,
“don’t dip your hands in the holy water
there is mold in the glass basin
you might catch something worse from the water
than from underneath a stone.”