January 6, 2014

Eleonore Schönmaier: A Poem

Eleonore Schönmaier
WHAT WE DON'T THINK OF PACKING


but take along anyway:  the shoes on our feet,
the fifty-four bones in our hands, the memory of
the colour of the sheets on our beds.  We prepare
for flight as if we and the customs officers are the only

ones who will ever open our baggage.  Nightshirts close
to the suitcase’s zipper so when we arrive we can quickly
begin to restore what we thought we’d lost.  Certain kinds
of loss we bargain for in transit:  eight hours of sleep,
the memory of where we parked the car—

In Canada a man stands at the end
of his driveway talking to a neighbour:  I received
the call—search and rescue.  There was no screaming, no
arms hanging loose.  The helicopter shone light on the water
and we picked up what there was—


When I walk the beach with the kids
I know what I’m looking for.
I found a piece of plane and slipped it into my pocket.
Didn’t tell the kids—a scrap
the size of a two dollar coin.


Loss jangling, except it’s in a currency
no one else understands even if they were on the boat
when he cupped the child’s sneaker in his palm, insisted
the police promise to return it to the family—We never

anticipate losing the memories of what we have already lost—


from Treading Fast Rivers (McGill-Queens University Press, 1999). Reproduced by permission. 
Read my conversation with Eleonore Schönmaier here.

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