the boy in the cardboard box

by Dan Campbell

dog-eared and tired,
smeared with postage,
the once-brown box
hides itself under
the stamped color and ink
of Ellensburg's apples,
the sentinels at Stonehenge,
Gokstad's resurrection,
and the tobacco-born bull
of Durham.
the broken package
tries to ignore the brazen
across the address label.

a gawky youth with ancient eyes,
the hoary stolen child,
curls in upon himself,

the nuns take him in, clean him up,
feed and clothe him,
and teach him their manners.
but he always sleeps in the box.
the beds have peas in them.

he learns to walk,
and sit, and stand, and kneel.
but he only prays to Mary:
kyría, kyría, kyría,

and then his parents come calling,
so wise, so cool, so fair and bright —
so fair, ever fair,
as the slow, stealing dawn.
he runs screaming to the bell tower,
bathes himself in frankincense,
and almost, almost
drinks the holy water in the font.

he does not age,
because he is too old.
he tries not to dream,
because his nights are always,
too often, cold.
he hides himself
among other children
too lonely to be alone,
whose silences
are too telling to be told.

every year, when the moon's chill
crisps the leaves upon the lawn,
he packs himself off,
sends himself back
to where he hopes he has a home.

he folds himself inside,
grumbling and tired,
snoring in shivers,
while the next stamp
of approval is licked
and pasted, sealed and paid,
before the box addresses itself
to the business
of silence and soliloquy.

Dan Campbell is most often at home in the middle of North Carolina with his wife and two daughters. His poetry has appeared most recently in Stone Telling, while in bygone days within The Charlotte Poetry Review, The Archive, and the British Druid Order's poetry collection Blue Green Tapestry. He is the poetry editor for Bull Spec and ruminates on reading and writing at his Livejournal. His favorite fruit can only be found in the to-die-for berry pies his wife makes when the mood suits her.

Back to Table of Contents