Juliana Chang

Once, at the airport
my suitcase came down the baggage carousel
burst open, two halves split open like a tangerine.
I saw my favorite dress tumble down the rubber tracks
turning black, other items scattered too. Face burning,
I gathered what I could and left for home.

It is important to remember: nothing felt gone that day.
No suitcase morphed shape to show the changing
of its contents, my mind named no single thing to find.
It was only days later, when I reached for a bracelet,
or maybe a lover’s shirt, only to find it missing,
that the loss began.

I don’t mean the things. I mean the safety
of knowing what I do and do not have,
the time before a search for old earrings
would leave my heart racing, trying to remember
if it had been in a piece of luggage I packed four months ago:
what I must find becomes what I must forget
all at once.

It is a strange kind of ache
to not remember what you have lost.
I don’t mean the things. That first poem was just
a letter that never got sent. Has it been days or years
since I’ve written to you—
would either of us know?