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Ode to my black satchel

Some took with them amulets, propped parasols, jade slaves,

some took chariots, infantry, terracotta regiments,

wore torcs, amber beads, lapis lazuli or rope

carried grain, legal tender, crockery and harness

for the journey beyond.

But I would willingly forgo all of these for the black satchel

that slouches in the chair opposite, waiting

until I empty the cup into the pot plant, power down the PC, turn the lights off. 


It doesn’t contain much of value,

other than the prospect that it is possible

to have everything that matters in the afterlife at one’s fingertips:

pockets for what I should have said when I was silent,

compartments to separate what was truly important

from what I thought was important,

what I truly wanted from what I told myself I wanted;

and, behind a concealed zip, something bulky that seems to weigh

the bag down, as if there were a rock in there; but when I check,

I can only find some old, leaky biros.


Eternity must sound like the interior of an overnight Greyhound bus:

years going by like the broken line outside,

the intermittent interrogations of zips

opening and closing forever in the darkness

while I grope for these familiar handles,

twisted until they’re almost inside out

but still with the kindness of a fellow-passenger

fitting comfortably in my palm

my rummaging a promise

to accompany this object on its journey

as it attends to me on mine.

First Prize, The Letter Review Prize for Poetry 2022 

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