"But where he was welcome most / Was often where he was his worst."
after Gabriel García Márquez
Once a man traveled from Manila
To Rome, toting his dead daughter
In a Samsonite suitcase hoping
For an audience with the pope.
Her body the odor of tidy linens.
Her skin maintained its olive glow.
He took her out as if unpacking
A Stradivarius or laying down
A lily of the valley on the settee.
The settee in the hotel where he was
Installed was green-and-yellow paisley.
He owned a tie in that pattern—
Ties inside a case with other ties,
Shoehorned boots in velvet sacks.
But where he was welcome most
Was often where he was his worst.
Grander than most, his suitcase
Once held the sultan of Brunei,
Desolate and cursing his handlers
Who knew he was good to go.
Another time he smuggled a modest
Booty of Poussin’s paintings, a bust
Of Diderot. A mighty, mighty
Fortress, a walled city of psalms
And shrapnel was his only reward.
Like Darwish’s country of words,
He was in search of land to speak in.
Neither miracles nor blessings
Were made available for the man
Wishing more for his daughter
Beyond passing freely through
The customhouse of heaven.
No grief was greater for a parent
Whose fate it was to outlive his child.
Stranger to light cargo, he became
A bearer of islands, an entire archipelago.
Listen to Gloria read The Suitcase:
Insight shared with S&H from Eugene Gloria:
"This poem borrows its basic plot from a short story by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. You could say that my reading of the original story was, in a way, a lyric attempt to narrate the absurd and surreal pilgrimage of a man in search of a miracle. In the process of writing this poem, I discovered that this man’s search for grace is no different from my idealized view of my country of origin."