myself parceling thoughts into paragraphs
to be mailed, as if he had already left.
One: after three flights of stairs,
how could he have guessed which
was the right room, there being no sign
on the door?
Two: his sense of direction
has nothing to do with the compass-
shaped lighter in his pocket, yet another
Three: white squares
on walls where maps must have hung,
tour brochures still on monobloc chairs,
steel cabinets perched on trolleys,
all make up one story: even this place
is in the process of moving.
travel agency, like a garage sale
in a real garage.)
I think of a neighbor
who parked her car out on the curb
while strangers rifled through silverware
and books, furniture and shirts: a houseful
of detritus in the driveway, selling for less
than their worth.
She looked on with resolve
(or was it nonchalance?), her eyes saying:
No room for baggage; I am bartering
my heart for another life.
And now he—
who is neither neighbor nor stranger to me—
what would he say in this, my story
of the last errand?
(That he has been
a tourist all this time? That his hunger
for border-jumping is insatiable?)
I sit at the edge
of my chair, waiting for—there it flickers,
as an agent hands him his plane ticket—
the look of a child asking if it is all right
to leave, as if permission were mine
I watch the agent reading,
taking forever to turn the page. I want to ask
where the maps are, to see the red dots—
like the lit ends of cigarettes—in place
of the cities we love.
Instead, I make my knuckles
crack a code into the air: Leave already,
so you can write to me. I need
to read your version of this story.