I unravel my collection of smiles, so carefully gathered and treasured.
Each one has a name tag, a date, a piece of hair and a collar.
I know exactly where I earned them, to whom I owe them.
I recall the moment they were born and the moment they died.
And there’s the suitcase. The black leather suitcase that was never
Empty enough for my registers. That never had enough time to spare,
Nor enough patience for the unfolding of a big, proud smile.
It wanted the immediate, passionate smirk. The flat line of happiness.
The convalescent way to show affection, fast and scheduled.
The suitcase didn’t care for tags or dates or clocks or correlations.
It hated sunbathing in the afternoons and the foolishness of smelling flowers.
My collection was cut short after the suitcase arrived.
Only messy teeth and weird openings, cavities, and grins.
Painful canals opened beneath the bridges of my dentures.
They became so noisy, jumbled up inside, that I gave up on carrying them along.
A while after, I forgot the definition of a smile, I forgot how to spell it.
But I knew proper words, like laureate, leather, lock, letter, leave.
I knew the dates of the right events, like dinners, achievements, publications.
I stayed inside more. Sun and Leather do not go together.
The suitcase angered easily, so I became faster.
No more idle time, no more admiring the landscape.
Imagination was a prize and a luxury, to spare only during hot baths
And awaken in the bed, while the suitcase rested.
While I guarded its slumber as one of those wounds we grow fond of.
Now, I’m staring for the last time at these faded smiles.
The suitcase needs more space, more room to spread.
My pile of journals will also make way because their covers are faux
And their pages are just the same as blank, but useless , it says.
Winter’s clinging to our bones and shredded past seems of good warmth.
The smiles do not burn. I use each one in front of the mirror and they leak
Straight into the sink. I hear them trying to hold on to the pipes.
A good old laugh of despair until they’re gone.
But now I know suitable emotions like sorrow, dullness, and inadequacy.
The suitcase has never been so pleased with me.
Photography by Jill Battaglia