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On the door:


This area contains chemicals

known to the State of California

to be carcinogenic.


What am I supposed to do?

Not go in?

But I need some nails.

Go in, but briefly,

hold my breath and not touch.

Wear a surgical mask and antiseptic gloves?


I open the door and ask the clerks

for the list of carcinogens.

There is no list.

They don’t know where the threat lies.

They work a full day and look fine.

So did the waiters

in the smoke-filled diner.

“So far, so good,” they tell me.

No rash. No cough.

What a contrary message they send,

like nurses who break for a smoke

outside a hospital.


But it is slow.

How would I know I caught it here?

Who could I sue,

and what good would it do?


What other dangers lurk,

where there is no door,

no warning taped to glass.

I can think of only one, overwhelming,

close my eyes,

and pretend it is not there.