“Passport,” from Bloodroot.


I am your distant
relation from a one-time mother
country. About me you know
only my names, familiar
and unpronounceable.
You have not shared
the railway carriages
I’ve sat in, their seats’
itchy plaid nap thinned
by other travelers’ thighs,
or paced with me while waiting
at departure gates. You
cannot see the white scar
on my wrist, the chilblains
on my toes, or smell
the coal-fire odor
clinging to my clothes.

A tall, stiff woman.
The one with earplugs
in her bag, light glinting
off her glasses, a gaze
that’s guarded. The kind
who wants to have her cake
and, yes, eat it too. That sort.

I translate the transatlantic.
My back is hunched
from all the baggage I have carried,
checked and unchecked–
for which I’ve paid high fees,
my paraspinals taut as piano wire.

My worldly goods were shipped from England
to America in wooden tea chests, foil-lined,
a half lifetime since.
My shoes were full of tea dust.
Books too, for years.

Believe me when I say I never meant to stay.
I pray to the god of second chances, doors,
chameleons, coyotes, migrants and divided loyalties.
I’m hefted to the hills, the borderlands.
I’ll be your go-between.

If anyone goes looking for me, tell them
I’ve gone to earth.
Tell them this time
I’m traveling light.