ELEGY FOR THE TRAVEL COMPANION

 

A white shroud—hand stitched,

precise. Nearby, pins and threads

hanging out of needles’ heads

like rivers and roads on a page

in an atlas cover a small pillow.

I dusted memories left on

bookcases as knickknacks,

souvenirs crowded shelves

like streets during rush hour.

Water damage smeared words

illegible on postcards, but I still

recognized your small print, my

cursive. You, the tour guide,

me, the visitor stuck in front

of a museum on a Monday. Then I

listened for your voice. A whisper

hushed in my ear as a curator

draped sheets over the entire

sculpture exhibit. Nearby,

a gravedigger piled dirt

on the grass until all the graves

looked fresh. Where

might they have gone had they

lived an extra day? An explorer

opened a blank map, an atlas without

roads, an empty book. She shook it

open like a newspaper, expecting

it to reveal events and a date. Your

voice filled the shroud. Its off

whiteness clothed a cartographer

holding maps smelling of dust—I,

searching bookshelves for a yellowed

photo album filled with you.

 

 

Liz Marlow’s debut chapbook, They Become Stars, was the winner of the 2019 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition. Other work appears in The Bitter Oleander, Greensboro Review, Minnesota Review, Tikkun, and elsewhere.

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