blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1




Here’s how you never move from the studio
You hate, the job you hate; here’s how you go
From girl to old hag while never noticing:
You pack a suitcase full of brand new clothes
And lock it up and never open it again,
Leaving it out in full view near the bed
So you can see it every day and think
At any moment you could up and leave.
That’s how you never will. That’s how I stayed.

That’s what made the temp job tolerable
At first, even somehow appropriate,
And why I loved my fellow workers who,
Like me, were on their way to bigger things,
Time biders, heel coolers, until the break,
The call, the letter, as if the work itself—
So stupidly rote it made you want to drive
An ice pick through your skull—was proof enough
this wasn’t who they were or would become.

Like them, I had ambitions, even fancied
Myself an artist, except I had no art.
Oh, I drew on weekends, quilted, wrote
Down bits of conversation overheard
On corners or in subways, lines I saved
For the play or novel I’d be writing soon:
“My cure for isolation was divorce.”
“No one’s had a life like mine—not even me.”
Phrases I entertained my friends with when

We’d go for drinks, which we did often back
In the old days, and there were boys I liked
And every now and then I’d take one home,
And he would laugh and shake his head and call
Me crazy in a way that flattered me
At first when I’d explain about the suitcase;
It made me interesting to him, intriguing,
Like a character in a story, though nothing lasted;
Sooner or later all of us moved on,

Or they did anyway, coming and going,
Year in year out, and never growing older
While year by year too gradually to notice
I went from being a child like them at the
Beginning of a marvelous adventure
To older friend, to mother, to mother hen,
To “the eccentric” “the weirdo” “the hag” expiring
In a hidey hole in a nightmare forest
The children now are careful to avoid.

Whoever finds me, police or paramedic,
What will he make of this, my ancient suitcase
With its brass screws, its tiny keys looped round
The wooden handle, and inside it price tags
Tied to the buttonholes of shirts and blouses
Still in their plastic wraps, meticulously folded,
With little pins pinning the cuffs together,
Pinning the collar to the cardboard collar,
The slips and dresses decades out of fashion?

It’s like I’m hauling it from the train now,
The train cars steaming as I pull it across the platform,
And up the stairs against the downward tide
Of others hurrying off to other places,
And then I’m there in the vast terminal,
Under the giant clock, and nearly gliding
Over the marble floor I have all to myself,
The suitcase lighter than air, as I push out,
Breathless, through the doors to my destination.  

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