Poem | The 'Strengthless Arms' of the Baggage Handlers

Although you have never seen them yourself,
there are places you still suppose to exist.
San Diego, for example,
where the man in the next cubicle
flew his family over Christmas week...
Beautiful weather, a wonderful zoo!
You imagine a sun-splashed elephant
in its glaring enclosure—San Diego.

Not for the Louvre you flew to Paris,
but the baggage handlers who came at dawn
on a grimy tram to stack big bags
in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower
yet would not lift their eyes to it.
Now if you wondered what difference
anything makes, you could go home
and live as a man who has been to France.

Another place you suppose to exist
entered your mind one afternoon
asleep underneath the Sunday papers.
In the Travel Section, in gaudy orange,
was an ancient desert habitation
and a man on his camel. Like you on your couch,
he too will go, when his god wills it so,
to a place even stranger than San Diego.

Published in the February 24, 2017 issue: 

Don Barkin’s poems have appeared in Poetry, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry Northwest, Verse, and other journals. His book, That Dark Lake, was published by Antrim House.

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