“Crayolas” by Robert Harlan Wintroub, MD

Robert Harlan Wintroub, M.D.


Don’t fresh crayolas carry the day?
White, red, green, blue, and black.
A single row in the stiff orange box,
and later, double-rowed
                brown, pink, yellow, and gray.

Then once I proved myself mature
                the box eight rows deep
                with shades of color I never knew
                lavender, canary, silver, chartreuse,
                with squared-off points
                and paper wrappings colored to match.
                My fingers tear a piece at a time
                to extend and unsheathe more of the
                color behind.

But it’s such a struggle to keep them straight
                once two have been removed,
                and if a bunch are out,
                no one least of all me
                can ever again order them anew.

If they came with numbers
                I would know what to do!
                The sequence would be easy
                but who can remember
                whether the greens are to left
                or the right
                of the blues.

Crayolas are meant to last a year
                —if one is careful—
                uses broken fragments and peels
                the paper off the last little bit
                but has anyone among us
                even the most poor
                used Crayolas up
                before demanding new?

Haven’t we all
                done what we had to do
                to show a box deformed
                with stumpy fractured remnants
                paper covers gone
                ends rounded and cracked,
                to win a new and grander box.

Sometimes, I dream of
plunging my hand into that box most incredible
Burnt Siena, Viridian,
Cadmium Yellow, Ochre, Vermillion
Chromium Green Oxide and Sepia,
Phthalo Green, Prussian Orange,
Cyanith Gray, Sepia, Terravert, and Antaverne Blue.

Sometimes I dream
of what I should not dream
of alizarin crimson edging
obsidian black silk,

of stiff milkwood
and soft musk brown
of the taste of Cabernet
the scent of French perfume.

Perhaps the time has come
to put the crayolas away.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
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