* a poem *
The UPS man just delivered a brown cardboard box.
It is taped with light brown tape;
next to the scrawled address is a warning:
Caution! Contents may cause fragile objects to break!
Before I open the box, I check my apartment for breakables.
(I forget to look inside myself).
I slide the dull blade of a scissor through the tape and a child pops out.
I lead the child into the kitchen and listen to baby teeth crunch a sugary granola bar as I boil water and stir in some instant hot cocoa mix.There are marshmallows, of course.
The child slurps up the last chocolate-y dregs and pronounces,
“Let’s play Legos!”
but I shake my head. I gave all my Legos away years ago.
“Do you have trucks?” It tries again,
but I have to say no. I never owned any trucks.
“Then let’s make snow angels.”
This time it is certain. But I shamefully look down at the hardwood floor because, well, people like me grew out of their snow pants one day and didn't buy new ones.
The child plops down on the floor
looking up at me with round brown eyes.
I twinge inside (but don’t break)
and I think of the eight-pack of Crayola markers hiding in my closet.
I retrieve it.
The round brown eyes get rounder.
The walls were boring and white (very adult)
but we fill them with stories.
A swirl of blue forms an ocean,
a spurt of red is a volcano,
a blob of green is a jumping frog prince,
a spot of orange is a retreating sun.
We are busy for hours
writing our lives’ adventures together.
And oh, what adventures they are.
The child gets tired
and curls up against me,
the head snuggling sweetly into my waist.
I want only to feel its softness there forever.
I look up at our wall
and begin to tell the child our stories.
If I tell of a frog prince and princess
who meet just as the sun is setting
and who flick their rough tongues out at each other
at just the right moment
so that magic begins
maybe I can keep the child’s head
nesting against my belly for just a little bit longer.
I falter, pausing for a second. How did it get there?
The child twitches.
The story comes back to me then,
but it no longer flows like it once did.
Suddenly, there is a knock on the door.
The child stirs.
I feel an unpleasant pressure in my hip as the child’s elbow digs into it.
When my hand touches the cold metal knob, I know who waits on the other side.
The UPS man--always kind, always polite--holds out his roll of tape and a fresh box.
The child scurries toward him and climbs in.
“But why?” I ask. “Why do you have to go?”
The child looks at me as if it should be obvious.
“You don’t have snow pants.”
With that, the child ducks down and the man tapes up the box.
Because children, like lovers, need you
and warm your body for only a short time.
With the child gone,
I return to the hardwood floor
--and perhaps broken--
staring at the blazing wall
and reading our story
again and again