The Rattle, photo & dry brush, © 2017 by Bryan R. Monte. All rights reserved.

The Rattle, photo & dry brush, © 2017 by Bryan R. Monte. All rights reserved.

The Rattle
by Bryan R. Monte

“You’re so brave!”
the young woman
from my flight says
as she catches up with me
at baggage claim and stands
next to my wheelchair
waiting for a response.
She watched me wiggle
twice down the plane’s aisle
to the toilet, cane in one hand
the other skimming along
the overhead luggage rack.
‘What’s my choice?’ I think,
but instead I say “Thank you,”
as she tells me her father
with MS no longer travels.

I’m not brave, just grateful
for the leg braces and walker
that keep me upright,
and for the little, colourful pills,
those modern pharmaceutical miracles,
that freed me from a hospital bed
and my maternal grandmother’s
morphinated, rubber-sheeted,
institutionalised nightmares
her last five years.

In her memory every Sunday
I refill my plastic pillbox,
more regularly than I attend meeting,
with orange and green Tamsulosine
to plug the leaks in my underpants,
oblong, orange-brown Valsartan
to keep the pipes upstairs from bursting,
white Atenolol to slow
my irregular, frantic heart
and tiny Hydrochlorothiazide,
that slips or jumps through my fingers,
to prevent both grandfathers’ fatal strokes.

Not to forget red and white Lyrica
to extinguish the sub-dermal fire,
the tingling sunburn inside my feet
that starts the moment I step out of bed
and slowly kisses and licks its way up my legs
until by lunch I’m burning at the stake.
And lastly, green and white Cymbalta
to keep Lyrica’s suicidal, side-effect fireman
from self-immolating.

Once a week I pop pills from foil packs
into seven plastic compartments
refilling the shaman’s magic rattle:
the real courage in my chest.