Ode to the Cardboard Box

Oh, carrier vessel of all modern day goods:

I see you.

 

I witness your birth from my porch every day,

perched on a ridge overlooking the valley

where your great brick and stack mother rests by a river

 

like most births, it is sometimes difficult to watch.

 

the massive spiked metal trucks

handling 30 year old long leaf pines

feeding them in

 

it brings comfort to read

that 85% of Earth’s biomass is plant material,

mostly wood, the substrate for your body

 

mulch remnants spilled from the trucks

highlight the shoulders of highways

leading to your birthplace

a very small percentage lost to production

about the same relative amount

as the .01% of Earth’s living organisms

that are human

and without whom you would not exist

 

I don’t see the inner workings

that transform tree to pulp

the formaldehydes or ammonia that flow

nor the river whose temperature is raised

nor the solvents used to clean the final product

nor the fine particulates or dust from combustion

 

mostly what is witnessed from my isolated hilltop view

is the smoke

that verifies presence of the fire within

 

massive plumes rise from your mother

24 hours a day

 

smoke balloons upwards for a little distance

nearly eclipsing the mountains behind

then settles to blanket the whole valley,

city and region

and when the wind is just right

out of the northeast

the pungent odorous smell

signifying your entrance into the world

wafts up to my porch

 

and I see you again and again

throughout the day:

 

as my patients arrive for radiation treatment

coughing up grey pale phlegm

asking how a person who had never smoked

can get lung cancer

 

as I open

small and medium and large boxes

into which have been placed

the necessities and gifts

the desires and guilty pleasures

the hopes and dreams that

sometimes define a life

 

occasionally you are the highlight

on uncomfortable commercials

where people use you for their primary residence

and you serve as more protection than vehicle

 

today, I bow in gratitude

knowing

there is never a benefit without risk

no free lunch

even when served in the thinnest colorful box