The Architect

By Stephanie Austin

She rips the cardboard box open
With two bare hands instead of scissors.

The top reads CAUTION, FRAGILE.
The side reads THIS END UP, with a blue arrow.

But she lifts the box, dumps every piece out.
There’s an outpouring of cedar planks,
A stream of bolts that look like those of a metal lunch pail,
The kind a construction worker carries.
Chunks of plastic drop to the ground,
With no comparable form but that of broken toys.
Multicolored squares of cloth float out,
Mixing with crumbled rubber and shards of glass.

They smell of honeysuckle,
Of her grandmother’s peach cobbler,
Of exhaust fumes, dead leaves, plaster,
Ivory soap, rusty nails, and petrichor.

The sound of the tumbling pieces
Mimics the pop of bubble gum,
Of hands slapping metal doors,
It matches the rhythm of her favorite song,
And the tempo of the one she hates
Because she can’t get it out of her head.
It sounds like laughing until she cries.

The tumbling ceases
With the instruction manual sliding out.
She reaches for it,
The front page cuts her finger.
As an after-thought,
She rips it in half, throws it down
And the pages scatter themselves, too.
At last, her finger offers
A single iron-red drip to the floor,
And she constructs.