I found this suitcase slumped in a dark attic corner
like a drunk awash in self- pity. I was Me once.
There’s a burn mark beside one latch. I tell myself,
with a bit of wonder, Me used to smoke in those days.
Indeed– and drink. And booze and bright ash equaled char,
perhaps in some airport waiting space. I see
such moments, as when Me stumbled out of that bar,
precisely to catch a plane. On the way, he kicked
a sack that a woman had stuffed with gift-wrapped somethings.
Her look mixed fury with fear. She wore a toque,
dark green, with a sort of oval metal badge.
So much is blacked out, but the hat is clear for some reason.
Me mumbled Sorry. The grip’s travel tags have frayed:
Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, even Egypt!
Me held fellowships, took exotic vacations
with his wife and three children. A raving child himself,
Me knew even then he didn’t deserve good family.
I bring to mind his foot-stomping rage in Siena
when a toy he’d bought wouldn’t work on his son’s fourth birthday.
Although Me reassured the child that his rage
was not at him, the boy’s face was more than just worried.
And when the shopkeeper claimed the toy had been dropped,
Me re-erupted, screaming until frail knickknacks
quaked on the small store’s shelves: Non sono bugiardo
neanche truffatore! I’m neither liar
nor crook! Maybe not. But brute? No doubt. Or yes,
a child mid-tantrum. The, shopkeeper, quaking herself,
gave Me the refund: in fact, the refund-plus.
The cobbled Sienese square was generous with sun–
and looked to Me as dark as the hell to which
he must be bound. He was poet and scholar,
whose Italian stay had been funded by rich foundations,
and he hadn’t yet turned up his cards and found his hand
to be worse than a simple loser’s. All this came before
Me met a man he hasn’t seen since then.
Me, his hope grown faint, felt mostly puzzled
when the stranger, unbidden, recited this passage in English:
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
The intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.
Me inwardly cursed the stranger for his presumption,
for playing the saint. Yet the passage dug down inside.
The bag obliquely recalls that old quotation.
Back then a person’s luggage had no wheels.
Back then, full of books, this suitcase felt like an anvil
on walks to airplane counters. In Budapest,
it got lost for a week, and Me was blessed that he knew
no Magyar to speak of. What might he have screamed about this?
Now Me has grown old. He is I. These are not the sole reasons
these days I’m not very apt to raise my fists
as Me once did, nor to storm at innocent people.
Never in those bad years had Me been aware
he knew so little. What he used to consider acumen
had brought him to where he ended. If I’ve found a shred
of wisdom since, it has come of ascertaining
my own unwisdom. I study the scorch on the suitcase.
It has prompted a story, I see. May Me keep hiding.