The 2River View 28.4 (Summer 2024)

Susanna Lang

Suitcase: Departure

What do you pack when you’re leaving for a city
where your mother waits till you come, so she can die?
She tells you to bring layers, it’s cold in the mornings.
An old habit, like breathing. Will there be room
for the horn trio you heard last night, the rising phrase
Brahms wrote after his mother died? Can you slip in
the words you have trouble saying aloud? What about
the stories you’ve forgotten, or the ones you should let go?
Remember afternoon tea in the downtown hotel, the stand
tiered with sandwiches and cakes. Or stopping to buy 
sweet corn and cucumbers you both ate in the car.
Take out all the useless odds and ends, anything
with a sharp edge, and pack only what you need:
the sweaters, the way you’d call just to hear her voice.


Suitcase: Return

What do you pack when you’re leaving a city
where your mother asked you to watch her accept
a bowl of raspberry sherbet? The sweetness
mixed with her death. She ate every spoonful, scraping
the bowl to get at the last of it, twisting her mouth
at the taste. She knew what she was doing, she always
knew. I wrap her silver tongs in a dishtowel,
imagine them waiting for guests in the sugar bowl
I have from her mother. Slip the folder of family trees
into my carry-on. Fold the sweaters into the suitcase,
the ones I brought and the one I took from her drawer.
Some gray morning I will hold its red against the dim
light; but I have no place to fold away that moment
when I watched my mother eat her sherbet.

Susanna Lang’s chapbook, Like This, was released in 2023 (Unsolicited Books), along with her translation of poems by Souad Labbize, My Soul Has No Corners (Diálogos Books). Her poems and translations have appeared in Asympote, Circumference, The Common, december magazine, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. website
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