Johanna Keller


What Ails

I’ve reached an age when I must, once a week,
pop open—SUN to SAT—the fourteen tops
that constitute my future, so to speak.
Into each day, a small blue tablet drops,

and then a giant capsule (red and pink),
two oval gel caps, then a lozenge one;
a white pill lands inside with a sharp clink,
the green one follows. But I’m hardly done

since all those must be taken in the AM.
And now I have to load the PM side.
Without this pillbox, just think of the mayhem!
Without these pills, I’d be less fortified

against some gruesome ailment or disease,
against the vagaries of growing old,
against infection that could cause a wheeze,
against brain cell decay—so I’ve been told.

My evening hours I begin to fill
with tablets that will calm my nervous tummy.
And then at last I add my daily thrill:
a sugary fruit-flavored adult gummy.

Pop, pop, too soon the box is empty!—Then
I fill it up again—All done now!—But
another week has gone!—I start again.
And now I measure out my life with . . . what?

With pillbox tyranny, the autocrat
who counts the passing time with popping tops,
reminding me (as if I needed that)
a day will come when all pill popping stops.

Johanna Keller is an arts journalist whose essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Opera Magazine, and The Hopkins Review. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Southwest Review, Nimrod, The Florida Review, and Barrow Street. She gardens in Syracuse, NY.