At the Altar

That bag you packed me
when you sent me
to the universe—
camp after camp I’ve opened it
debating whether to unpack—
        Not yet, not yet—
Why did I feel so much in it
was dangerous on the playground,
too good for everyday,
feel those splendid fireworks
hazardous to institutions,
unmannerly to etiquette,
so that, time after time,
I found myself saying
       Not yet?
At each new place I faced it,
it suggested,
Here spread out your things,
put on this coat,
open this bottle—
       No, not yet . . .
sometimes throwing something out,
giving things away,
lightening my load. . . .
The more I pull out,
the more it seems, some days,
is left inside,
the heavier it is.
Sometimes I think this package
is almost a door
the opening of which
careening across heaven
could be fatal.
Some days now I wonder if I’ll ever
dare face my given garments—
permanently wrinkled,
surely out of date—
your travel-thought
wasting in its tissue, flesh-corrupt—
till I’ve absorbed it,
like those stitches that dissolve
in an incision
where something’s been removed.

Eleanor Ross Taylor, “At the Altar” from Captive Voices. Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Ross Taylor. Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press.
Source: Captive Voices (Louisiana State University Press, 2009)
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