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packing list for a trip i won't return from

by alliyah

1. i am reminded sometimes that we can outgrow places like hermit crab shells that have become too small, until the sand grates tough against our spines, and our ribs crack, and we find we have no more room to breathe nor space for wings to fly. and i have a habit of holding on to broken shells and folded feathers, for far too long, carrying them on my back; just in case i start to feel rootless again.

2. i once spent a year lost at sea, became a fish, and forgot everywhere i'd ever been except that i was lost. and since then, i don't count days against the sun, but against how many miles i am from shore. i carry no watch, but always a compass, always looking home, always searching, because i'm not sure which way to go.

3. and i keep my lungs hollowed out, in case there is water to bail.

4. i find myself talking to myself sometimes, just to hear what someone from home might say back to my wandering thoughts. and i collect all these voice mail messages like stray coins that i may need to spend.

5. this last time i left home, because home is a place i'm always leaving; never returning, i was told to take everything. so in an angry fit, i washed the furniture of my fingerprints, and scrubbed smooth the grooves in the wall that used to mark our heights, cut out the pictures we'd hung, and tried to swallow all the stray belongings that i couldn't take with me, until i was almost drowned.

but i could never quite unbind all these veins grafted to the spruce tree roots, and wrapped around ceiling beams, and buried far too deep under river tides. because leaving is never done {whole}.

*Author's Note: Please note this is a prose poem, which is why the poem isn't divided with regular line breaks or verse lines. My capitalization choices are intentional. Thanks for reading!

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95 Reviews

Points: 23
Reviews: 95

Sat Oct 30, 2021 3:45 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...

This is a cool poem,so liked this poem,it was beautiful.I feel like this is talking about the emotions when leaving something familiar,like home.You don’t want to leave home,but sometimes,you have to.You have to,for your own reasons.It’s hard,but needed.Maybe…you didn’t have a choice and it just had to happen.Either way,this was an emotional poem.I liked it.I hope you have a good day/night.

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81 Reviews

Points: 1597
Reviews: 81

Wed Oct 27, 2021 4:57 pm
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waywardxwallflower wrote a review...

Hello! Wallflower here with a quick review (:

My first impression of this poem was being blown away by its beauty. It's incredibly unique in the story it tells, the formatting, and the metaphors you make. Your comparisons with hermit crabs, birds, and overarchingly the sea are absolutely lovely. The way you use words is very unique and flows beautifully, and your writing style is very poetic while remaining personal, which makes it easy for the reader to relate and to fall into the story you tell. I often choose a favourite line to tell the poet of, but every single line in this poem is just so potent and packed with beauty and meaning; I wasn't able to choose.

Keep writing!

alliyah says...

Thanks so much wayward! :) Glad you enjoyed.

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430 Reviews

Points: 46350
Reviews: 430

Tue Oct 26, 2021 12:36 am
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Plume wrote a review...

Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Man oh man, I do love a good prose poem!! That title was super effective at drawing me in, and I loved all the directions you went with it!!

You did such a nice job of perpetuating that idea of home throughout. I loved the transitions from the first item, where the speaker doesn't exactly have a home but clings to pieces of their former homes closely just to convince themselves that they do still have a home, and then to the second, where now the speaker is obviously lost and doesn't remember what home used to be. Throughout the rest of the poem, you continue to follow the whole "no home" narrative, with the narrator always leaving, but then that last stanza with no item number attached to it, you return to those roots that people have. I love that flow of events and the narrator's different versions of home.

You've also got some great poetic devices in here. I loved the alliteration in "furniture of my fingerprints, and scrubbed smooth." The contrast between item three on the packing list with everything else was also stupendous; I loved how nearly jarring it was with its length compared to all the other ones. The hermit crab shells at the beginning was also a really nice way of showing home too. I think your usage of specific images like that and later, when you describe "scrubb[ing] smooth the grooves in the wall that used to mark our heights" really help build up that emotional and tangible connection that this poem can have with so many of its readers.

I also think it's somewhat interesting how this poem could be read as one long narrative or perhaps several isolated ones. I'm not sure which you intended, but it definitely explores different ideas of home. The ambiguity of whether this has been an evolving home for one person or several different people's experiences with home is a really nice touch, whether intentional or not.

because leaving is never done {whole}.

I did wonder about your choice of putting the word "whole" in curly brackets. I always love experimenting with different forms of emphasis/punctuation in poetry, but I was curious about the effect you wanted this to have. Generally, curly brackets aren't something you see in written things at all (I've always thought they were a more computer coding thing), and it was certainly a little jarring to see it. To me, when I read it, it carries more of a visual element than a tonal element, but I just wanted to bring it up to see if you had a specific purpose that I'm just not getting. It also could be interpreted as not part of the poem too; on my second read, it seemed more like an author's note/formatting thing, so maybe I'm reading too much into this.

Overall: nice work!! I always love reading your poetry, and I think this is an eloquent exploration of the concept of home delivered in a delightfully soul-touching prose poem. I hope to read more of your poetry soon for NaPoWeek! Until next time!!

alliyah says...

Great thoughts Plume! Thank you for sharing your interpretations!

> On the one long narrative vs. individual aspects, I sort of meant each numbered item to be one of the "(abstract) things" that I am packing as I'm leaving; relating to the title. So they're all part of one leaving, but also each individual. The items I'm bringing with might be summarized as 1) sentimental things / memories, 2) sense of direction / space, 3) lungs / body, 4) voice, 5) "everything" - and then the last stanza goes outside of the list poem form and is just like a postlude or something.

> I'm so glad you enjoyed the figurative language! I tried to choose images that seem very home-associated to me; especially the river.

> Ah good question on the curly brackets! I think that curly brackets communicate an optional artistic aside better than parenthesis. So I intended that last line to be able to be read as both "leaving is never done" (ie. leaving is never completed, leaving is infinitely ongoing) and "leaving is never done whole" (ie. 1) you can leave but you won't be whole, or 2) you can never leave somewhere wholely)

Initially I considered having other words in brackets as well in the poem, then felt it was a touch too gimmicky (which the ending ones may still be more distracting than helpful) I also considered having those first two words of the poem {i am} in curly brackets, so that if you just read the brackets the poem would be saying "i am whole" which would be an interesting contrasting message to the rest of the poem about home being where the narrator finds whole-ness. But decided that was maybe too confusing/gimmicky. :D In prose poems I think brackets can sometimes help you out in terms of highlighting items that you could usually highlight with line breaks- but since I only do it once here, might not be too effective.

Thanks for all the feedback again Plume! It was all encouraging / helpful to me. :)

We know what a person thinks not when he tells us what he thinks, but by his actions.
— Isaac Bashevis Singer