by Eliza Callard
Every day, I consume many colors—white and blue, pink,
translucent as a pale winter sun. Some I could crush
to a powder, some I could puncture and watch thick
red ooze smear my hands. Fat in the middle, round
like a flat earth, capsules you could shake like maracas.
I have ingested the weight equivalent of an adult male gorilla
or an anoa, from Indonesia (similar to the water buffalo).
I have swallowed one for every resident of
Copenhagen or the South American country of Suriname.
When I was six, my parents brought me
into the living room (dominated by a burnt orange rug),
and told me about “allowance.” When all the yapping
was done, they handed me a “dime,” slim and small, and so
I took it. Metallic, yes, but with a human hand tang. Right
down the hatch, pressing the back of my tongue flat,
following it with a drink in the kitchen.
It makes sense, therefore, that when he died, choking on
the same disease, I dreamt of swallowing him. He was a sparrow
being tossed like a football until I intervened and caught him.
His tiny bullet body, the heart fluttering to stillness,
the feathery heat in my hand turning to cold, and so I ate him.
No chewing, just opened my throat and down he went, until he
reached my chest and lodged, a pill that requires
more water than I can ever drink.
Eliza Callard was born, raised, and now lives in Philadelphia. Forty years of managing—and occasionally mismanaging—her cystic fibrosis have given her an unusual perspective on loss and endurance. She’s put in time as a reporter, a slush-pile reader, and a copy editor. A product of the Philly public schools and Skidmore College, she enjoys family time, hiking and camping, and playing the piano. She’s been published in Hobart, and her website is elizacallard.com.
Image credit: Daniel Go on Flickr