Hid in a Soft-Sided Suitcase ©2015 by Joy Bickham

This poem won honorable mention in Poetry, in the 2015-2016 Maricopa County Community College District Creative Writing Student Competition.


Hid in a Soft-Sided Suitcase


From behind the leathery wheel

I felt caught up,

like a fish on a barbed hook

There —

on the rear window of that blue-green sedan —

A butterfly.


Even though I know it’s not her,

I tell myself to look away,

She does not live anymore


except in the lies of memories,

of a hundred slumber parties in her

blow-dried blond hair.


She only exists in hours-long chatter

on the corded house phone

while I tangled the coiled cable

and she vacuumed her mother’s carpets.


There were buttered popcorn weekends,

Sardines in the basement

where I hid in a soft-sided suitcase in the closet.


“The Scientist” somber prelude

rouses her to life again

in her father’s cigar-choked garage

lamenting her fallacious boyfriend.


She left pink cursive in the margins of my Bible.

I look up and still see her amusement.


We should have built houses side-by-side —

the kind without fences —

our daughters interlacing footprints in wet sand boxes,

melding outdoor birthday parties, with matching homemade superhero capes.


She is but a dust devil and

grit in my teeth as

I spit words out to God,

mentally pulling up the carpet fibers.


But we can’t all be mollusks.

Sometimes the things that hide inside

won’t ever become pearls.


And sometimes the flutter we were brave enough to reach for

merely grounds the wings of hope.