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Patrice Vecchione

The World is a Suitcase


and everything we are is carried inside: each tooth
and nail; all puddles—murky and clear; the spinal
column bridges that transform one country into
another, and are crossed in perfect light. On one side
the world falls apart and on the other citizens attempt
to put it together again. Every match stick; every shard
of glass; every toothbrush; all starlight; so many fire
engines; each act of loving; all carried on within this
old, worn leather suitcase. And it’s a large suitcase,
the biggest. Tell me you’ve seen bigger!

Held here are the grass huts; the homely caves,
gray skyscrapers, open windows, shut doors.
Loneliness. The brown butterflies and their
cousins hover over grasses. An uncle whispers
to a boy, and they both smile. All small kindnesses
are known and forgotten. Every slap across the face
singes. Forest fires due to acts of violence; global
warming makes a smoke no handkerchief can
muffle. Each burnt pot on the stove. Songs only
a mother sings. Your hands poised above the piano
keys. Her eyes when asked to dance.

I am counting the light fixtures, the farmers’
fields, the teachers’ students. There is a scientist
on an island who, every summer, watches the
world slowly melt away. Movie posters invite us in;
we hesitate. Wild boar soup, crusty bread, hunger.
Hunger that grows. A cup of sugar, yellow slabs
of butter. The season’s first ripe nectarines. There
are the cabinet maker’s hands, his silence at night,
and how he holds one of those nectarines in his
battered palm. Think of all the snow and rain. Each
day’s first light, the moon after it disappears from
sight.

All roads—from the dirt ones to the super highways—
are rolled up in the suitcase. The girl who straddles
a jack rabbit’s back and never uses the whip in her
hand rides there. All lovers arguing—their crossed
meanings and crossed brows, and later when they
kiss and make up. Here: all past and present.
Selfishness and greed survives well; that of poor
men and of presidents.

Every calling voice that isn’t going to be heard
echos and weighs the suitcase down so that it
seems to be full of stones, making it, at times,
unbearably heavy. The handle bends and the
leather buckles and bulges. The one who carries it
has to set it down, and opens it then, just a crack,
the tiniest amount, peeks in to see what the hell
is going on: every shade of red is red, each fallen
leaf has fallen, the enormity of sorrow nicks the
heart. And when the carrier looks in, a large
wind blows us. It’s cold; we shiver:

the outside comes in.

This poem first appeared on the Poets Against the War site.


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