Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

"Packing Light"

Marilyn Kallet is the author of 14 books, which include translations, children’s books, personal essays, literary criticism, and anthologies of women’s writing. She teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee, as well as poetry-writing workshops in Auvillar, France, for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Packing Light

When I said I wanted to travel light,
didn’t mean I’d part with undies
and mascara. That all my baggage

should go missing. When the airline
rang my hotel with ‘sorry,’
I started making excuses—

‘Won’t be able to attend
the writers’ conference after all,
medical reasons, my heart, etc.’

When the Buddha realized
he’d lost everything,
that we were born to die,

he stopped desiring.
(Nu, Grandma Anna would have asked,
was he Jewish?)

But the female bodisattvas
wrapped in silk, swirled
beneath headdresses

that rivaled Yerushalayim.
Not so the mishpokah.
Grandma in the shtetl,

cousins becalmed
by the Schwarzwald
were forced to let go.

My parents clung hard
to their houses,
cars, and daughters.

Which begs the question,
Marilyn, what ghosts can you pack off,
pitch over the side?

What will you take with you
into your 60th year?
Hanging here

like a little spider,
lightness feels pretty good,
no? Even with the dark

gulping around you.