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"Grass Drawing”
Shelby Graham

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Patrice Vecchione

The Suitcase

          What is the key? What will it open? George MacDonald

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
matchstick; every shard of glass; every toothbrush; all starlight;
so many fire engines; each act of loving. All carried within this old,
worn leather suitcase. And it’s a large suitcase, the biggest. Tell me
you’ve seen bigger!

Inside it the bloody lip and the bloodied man rest beside fault lines.
Money is stuffed into envelopes, pushed into breast pockets.
Lawlessness abides. Rings get kissed. Cancer befalls the bravest
and the most sullen. Every whistle--bird on a wire or man facing
a woman. Each matchless sock has its mate. All shoulders--raised
or hunched, all the wide and beautiful hips; every hootchie-coo;
all utterances-- from ragged whisper to sharp shout; anybody’s baby.

Held here are the grass huts, the homely caves, gray skyscrapers,
open windows, shut doors. Loneliness. The brown butter- flies 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’m 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 cross
meanings and crossed brows, and later when they kiss and make up.
Here: all past and present. Selfishness and greed survive well; that
of poor men and of presidents.

Every calling voice that isn’t going to be heard echoes 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, peaks 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. 


Patrice Vecchione is the author of two books of poems and two nonfiction books, most recently, from Simon & Schuster, Step into Nature: Nurturing Imagination and Spirit in Everyday Life. Patrice Vecchione is excited to read for the Muse, the event she hosted for many years! The weekend prior, she’ll be performing her multi-media, one-woman show: Words Dressed & Undressed: Women, Aging & Identity in Santa Cruz March 17 & 18 at Center Street Theatre.

In Celebration of the Muse
Jean Walton Wolff
Patrice Vecchione
Dena Taylor
Lisa Simon
Dee Roe
Joanna Martin
Cindy Knoebel
Rosie King
Helene Simkin Jara
Kate Hitt
Clifford Henderson
Carolyn Brigit Flynn
Sigrid Erro
Margaret Brose
Carol Brendsel
Barbara Bloom

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham


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