Cardboard Bridges

by Christine Adams Beckett

Packing boxes, attempting to
Traverse a wormhole between
One life and another, the transient
Selects wooden, pewter, tarnished silver frames
Showcasing photographs taken over five decades,
Meticulously wraps them in grayish
Sheaths of paper, displacing dust but
Leaving streaked fingerprints on the glass.

Entombed under the matting, a boy embraces
An Egyptian camel, his mother’s neck
And a matchbox car, a red Ford mustang
Convertible in miniature, forming
Concentric circles of memory that ripple over
Years of conjured moments.

The toy itself is now long gone,
Residing in the bin of some unknown
Young recipient, or in a junk yard
In Fresh Kills,
Missing one or all of its tiny rubber wheels,
Its axles bent from countless runs
Down a Hot Wheels plastic ramp and
Over rocks, all-terrain style, fearless
In a city playground.

The camel, even then, seemed unauthentic:
Called Charlie Brown to appeal to American tourists,
He trolled the shadows of the pyramids of Giza.
With piles of garbage lining the entranceways
Of the wondrous monuments,
Steel girders of unfinished Egyptian
Apartment buildings piercing the same smoggy
Sky like antennae, Charlie groaned under
The weight of a Wall Street master.

The boy no longer clutches the neck of his mother,
Now sagging with age and a bowed
Head, struggling with the notion that
The frames could be put to more honest
Use with updated photographs.

Piaget said it best: two objects
Cannot occupy the same space.
Conservation of volume dictates
One old life left behind, displaced
By a new one, carries only stolen momentos
That become immaterial
Or shoved aside to an altogether
Different place in space
And time.