Residue (September 11, 2017, de Gaulle Airport)


I watch her

white-gloved hand

disappear

inside my pewter-colored backpack

that has traveled with me

across

time

space

and regret

 

I see her

remove each piece

meticulously

tucked and stored

into soft pockets

behind zippered compartments

or buried

in deep wells

and shallow holds

 

She cautiously

extracts the items

as if

she understands

the weight

they carry

the history

handling them

as though

they could split

crumble

melt

into dust

 

She glides

her hands over worn containers

like the blind man

exploring the elephant

 

She waves an electronic wand

over each artifact

as if

decoding it

Perhaps she will discover

a buried secret

or detect

the squishy sound of memory

 

I observe

without comment

forbidden

to touch

question

or explain

 

She carefully

lays each examined object

one

then the other

on the cold steel table

 

Here

splayed out

in front of

me

are my most essential elements

of living

fragments

I cannot leave behind

memories

I lug around

 

Here I am

a bystander

to my own life

whose fate

to move on with it

is in the hands

of a uniformed stranger

 

Quintets

of military police

assault weapons

strapped diagonally across their chests

move in formation

scanning the crowded concourse

their gloved hands

at the ready