Do Not’s (For Her) and Do Not’s (For Him)

Michael Levan

Do Not’s (For Her)

Do not drink alcohol: this may hurt the baby. / Severe learning disabilities, physical abnormalities, and disorders of the central nervous system may result. / Do not drink caffeine (or maybe not too much; it is okay to sneak a sip, / here or there, if careful, she-of-the-morning-two-cups will argue). / Increased risk of miscarriage during the first trimester is associated with elevated caffeine intake. / Do not eat soft cheeses. Brie, Gorgonzola, Camembert, goat, feta, queso blanco will assuredly have Listeria. / (This, she finds toughest; no more / baked goat cheese dinners with him / to warm their wintered stomachs.) / Do not eat deli meat: again, Listeria. (She is vegetarian; this will be no problem.) / Do not eat fish / high in mercury: no swordfish or tilefish; no King mackerel to finish / roasting in the oven after a kiss / on the grill; no seven-spiced shark steaks or shark kabobs, / absolutely no shark fin soup when they eat high-priced Chinese. (Again, no problem.) / Do not eat uncooked fish or shellfish, / Which goes without much saying, he thinks, wondering what / the world must be coming to if that needs noting. / Do not drink unpasteurized milk or cider; Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, or Salmonella. / Do not eat salads / made in a store (Listeria, one more time). / Do not eat at salad bars, sayeth the March of Dimes, for fear of, / yes, Listeria. / Do not lick the spoon or tongue away / the chocolate batter from the beaters’ twisted metal / after making cookies or cake. Do not think / pregnancy is excuse to Eat for two; this is myth. / Do not panic; do not worry. Babies happen / every minute. Do not think / this list is complete, ma’am: / there will be more trouble soon enough.


Do Not’s (For Him)

Do not drink alcohol in front of her, / especially not beers, sun-kissed Hefeweizens or bitterly persistent pale ales. She will ask / for a sip, she will beg for a half-glass. / Say no and be strong: remember, this will hurt / only the least important person of this new three. / Do not drink caffeine. A long night’s sleep will never come / easily again; take advantage now. / Do not eat what might turn / her stomach; roasted salmon, a salami sandwich, too-heavily-garlicked spaghetti. / (At least brush your teeth before / trying to kiss her glowing, or faintly shimmering if it’s early on, self.) / Do not rub her belly and sing, I wish I had a watermelon, I wish / I had a watermelon. It is crass. / Do not force her onto a roller coaster. (Sudden stops can harm the baby.) Do not / suggest taking a sauna or dipping into a hot tub. (Raised core temperature is a no-no.) / Do not go for a long, romantic bike ride. (Her center / of gravity will have been wrecked.) Do not propose / a celebratory skydive. (This deserves no explanation.) / Basically, do not openly enjoy anything / she cannot do. Do not seem pleased / this list is shorter and more ridiculous. She will be carrying / the weight for as long as this marriage lasts, / for as long as this child is alive. And if she ever feels / terrible, broken-down, needing to unburden herself and says, / You did this to me, / do not, do not, do not say anything. Take the punishment / like a man.


Art by Matt Monk


Michael Levan has work in recent or forthcoming issues of Arts & LettersPainted Bride QuarterlyIron Horse Literary ReviewCopper Nickel, and Ruminate. He is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Saint Francis and writes reviews for American Microreviews and Interviews.