Leave Behind: Poetry by Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith

 

Rocks (A Country in a Box)

In a cardboard box
simply marked rocks
you carried an entire country
in two pounds
of black and white gneiss,
quartz and feldspar rocks,
that you cobbled from eight months
of daily walks around Songtan.

Useless,
unwanted pieces
of weathered South Korean earth.
Some shined with smooth edges,
their imperfections catching the sun’s eye.
Others were dull and flat,
dirty and jagged,
without obvious beauty,
but unique enough to be collected
and remembered later.

The movers did not pack them
at first, leaving them to rest
in the corner like The Korea Times
crumbled on the ondol floor,
with the paper shreds waiting to be thrown away.

Rocks were not important.
Not like the clothes
already packed,
your Buddhist bell
and that doll in the hanbok dress.

They were trash until
you told them otherwise,
and despite their enlarged eyes,
they complied with your request,
wrapping them in brown packing paper
before sealing them in a box
bound for America,
as an inhale comes from your chest
and the lump in your throat
pulls at your heart with that last box carried out.

On the other side,
in your new American home for three years,
your hand smooths over the pieces,
both smooth and sharp,
and you exhale,
knowing that they are there.

The little pieces you picked up.
The little pieces you carried once
in your hands,
held next to your body,
smeared onto your skin,
tugged at you:
the fragments you hold onto;
the ones you did not want to leave behind.


J.L. Smith just recently moved all her worldly possessions from Alaska to Maryland, and is currently enjoying the change in scenery. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Cirque, Dirty Chai, Yellow Chair Review and Bitterzoet Magazine. See more of her work at jlsmithwrites.com.

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