Transportation Safety

by Christine Adams Beckett

The suitcase itself was identical
To the dozens or more being
Wheeled in line by a school
Of spawning salmon people
Struggling upstream to
A checkpoint, an obstacle
To the fast way home.

Hers was made unique
And discernible by
A red, frayed grosgrain ribbon
Missing the talisman
It once displayed around her neck,
But securing the broken
Zipper, locking away
The contents, the luggage
Too cumbersome for
Two outstretched
Cradling arms, or
Too personal to tote
Without cover.

A bear of a badged man,
Par chance, unzips her hidden world
With latex gloves and
Gunpowder detecting swabs.
Flushed with the abrupt intrusion,
The traveler looks underneath
The opened lid, the uninvited
glimpses at all that she has
Packed away:
The white blouse with yellowed
Orbs under the arms
That once made her feel
The polish of a more worthy woman,
But now worn only under
A cardigan cover,
Boxes of shortbread dipped
In dark chocolate that really
Weren’t destined for her elderly mother,
Silk underpinnings which were
Seen by no one, save her
And this uniformed stranger:
Intricate lace that once made her feel wanted,
And now only foolish.

Raising his eyebrows, he
Glances over bifocals,
Dirtied with dandruff and sweat,
At the vulnerable fish woman
Clutching a paperback best kept
Under brown paper covers,
A bottle, a needle, a thread.
Rumpled cottons chosen
For comfort when Pandora’s
Boxes were unceremoniously opened,
Are returned to their original piles
Now disturbed, disorderly, rumpled.

With trembling fingers, she pulls
The tab of the zipper, her
Gill-like lungs struggling for
Calm, safely containing
All that she carefully tucks away
To a neat place,
Hidden, dark, manageable
When unperturbed.
With a groan in the throat,
A strain of the shoulders, she raises
Her pain and wonders
If she’ll have to pay an
Additional fee required
For overweight parcels.

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