Departure

Just as even weeks before it is time to leave
you begin to think about packing,

about what you will take for the two-week trip –
what to take, which means how much to take,

and how to cram that too much into your luggage,
and what you can reasonably leave behind,

and what it will be like when you arrive
in that still vague new place

which you can neither envision nor avoid imagining:
the contours of each day,

where you will sleep, what and where you will eat,
and as the scheduled date of departure approaches

turning these matters over in your mind,
folding them like shirts to lay flat in a suitcase,

and taking them out and shaking them and folding them up again
seems to consume entire days and nights

so that in effect you are home no longer
but poised on a threshold, rocking back and forth

from one foot to the other, neither here
nor there, and the days before you leave feel slow,

empty, delayed, nibbled at by distractions,
but also speedy, uncontrolled,

swerving out of the daily grooves worn down by habit,
swirling like water about to go down a drain,

yet whether fast or slow the time does pass,
the days do dwindle until, as planned, you’re off;

just so with that other journey,
pondering the anxious checklist, what to take

(and whether it is allowed or even possible
to take anything), and what to leave behind,

and who will care for whatever it is you leave,
who is there to responsibly receive it

consumes the time before, the time you have,
the time you’re here, still home

(even as the idea of home begins to feel precarious);
the time you’re here, which is the only time,

a blank duration not measured in so many days and nights
but weeks, months, very possibly years,

or maybe less. Maybe much less.
There’s no itinerary, no departure date.

But you do have a ticket issued with your name,
your ticket issued at birth and no one else’s.

Yet despite your personal ticket, other people
have somehow been pulled into the anticipation

of this imminent or not so imminent departure –
people who are equally anxious whether there’s nothing

or something or a lot that they can do.
It turns out the law of preparation for this journey

doubly decrees that on the one hand there’s a great deal to discuss,
there are endless decisions to be made,

and on the other hand that to broach the topic,
even to tiptoe around the prospect of departure

is all but impossible,
so glossy and impervious the sealed folder

issued by an invisible travel agent,
the ticket with your name without a date;

so heavy the lid of that half-packed black suitcase
gaping in the middle of the bedroom floor.

Rachel Hadas

Rachel Hadas

Rachel Hadas's verse translation of Euripides' two Iphigenia plays was published in June by Northwestern University Press. A new collection, Poems for Camilla, is forthcoming in September from Measure Press.
Rachel Hadas

Latest posts by Rachel Hadas (see all)

Author: Rachel Hadas

Rachel Hadas's verse translation of Euripides' two Iphigenia plays was published in June by Northwestern University Press. A new collection, Poems for Camilla, is forthcoming in September from Measure Press.