Poem: “Unpacking”


This is what I do:
I remove the contents of my bag one by one.
There’s a lot in there, and I don’t want to overwhelm you.
So I start with the smaller items;
a lipstick I stole from my best friend,
an incomplete dream journal,
a blue scarf I will probably never get rid of.
You are watching and nodding encouragingly.
You gesture at your own bag, indicating I should look inside.
When I hesitate, you gently guide me over and explain your items.
Afterwards I understand.
I decide I can continue unpacking.
I begin to withdraw the larger objects, the ones that are heavier;
an old and battered set of scissors, scratched and worn,
a pair of shoes I once wore when I slipped away from a dark room before dawn,
an ugly, bulky snowglobe that houses black soot instead of white flakes.
And still, you don’t flinch.
You take out the innards of your bag as well.
We spread our objects over a bedspread and stand above them, looking down.
Curiously, calmly, courteously, studying them.
We ask each other murmured questions as we delicately brush our fingers against
each other’s baggage.

And then we are done.
Everything is bare and exposed on the thin colorful blanket.
For the first time, I breathe a quiet sigh of relief.
It seems as if it took years to empty this luggage.
But finally, I have.
We smile at each other.

Except then, outside, somewhere among the fog that can’t reach us indoors, there is a noise.
I can’t make it out, but you tense up, you say it is a train whistle.
Hurriedly you grab one of your items; a fragile glass pipe, and you stuff it back inside your bag.
You methodically begin to gather the rest of your belongings and return them
to the depths of your suitcase.
You have to go for now, you say, but you might be back later.
It depends on the train.
The train I cannot see nor hear.
You smile at me and slip out the door.
I look down at the bedspread.
All my items are there, staring up at me, taunting.
They accuse me, condemn me, grin at me knowingly.
They know you will not return.
And all you have left me from your things is a single orange flower,
roots cut off at the bottom,
unable to grow.


– Saratoga Schaefer, written March 2018

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