The Cardboard Box

by Janet I. Buck


I tell the world: “Stop rushing by without me there.” Don’t walk as if you love the ground, do not feel gravity. I ask our peach geranium, named Mabel Marvel in a pot: “Please wait to bloom” until I’m standing straight as pencils sitting on eraser heads. Until I’m wandering the yard and watching you unfold your petals one by one, instead of guessing how you look. I tell our grand Catalpa tree, don’t show your ivory silk bouquets until I’ve walked the stepping stones, stood close enough to touch what’s green. I tell our lace alyssum shrubs, don’t die on me before I’ve washed the dirty windows of my eyes, driven somewhere down the street, anywhere three feet away from cages that I’m living in.

I beg pink roses not to bud before my back can bend and hold, spray for insects crawling toward their perfect circles deep inside. Arthritis chews upon my bones like lobsters eating neighbors in a tank they share—a bucket full of supplements cannot restore the frozen statue than I am. Seven folded joints replaced, with coupons from a mailbox and very gruesome surgeries. It all seems so predictable. Expiration’s coming up like headlights aiming straight at trees in heavy fog. The speed is 60 mph.

I told my doctor just last week: “My life is like a landing plane without the wheels.” “Medicare will pay for scooters, other stuff,” is all he said. He really has no single clue about the engine running hot, night and day, beneath a hood and chassis too that’s broken like a cardboard box because the rain has made it soggy, weak, and tired.

I don’t get the why’s and all’s of painting “hope” with lipstick on a bathroom mirror. If I read it upside down, smear it with a paper towel, at least I’ll know the word is there.

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