Ode to My Black Satchel

Ode to My Black Satchel

First Place in the Letter Review Prize for Poetry

Poetry by Isi Unikowski

December 15, 2022

Some took with them amulets, propped parasols, jade slaves,

some took chariots, infantry, terracotta regiments,

wore torcs, amber beads, lapis lazuli or rope 

carried grain, legal tender, crockery and harness 

for the journey beyond. 

But I would willingly forgo all of these for the black satchel 

that slouches in the chair opposite, waiting 

until I empty the cup into the pot plant, power down the PC, turn the lights off.  

It doesn’t contain much of value,

other than the prospect that it is possible 

to have everything that matters in the afterlife at one’s fingertips:

pockets for what I should have said when I was silent,

compartments to separate what was truly important 

from what I thought was important,

what I truly wanted from what I told myself I wanted;

and, behind a concealed zip, something bulky that seems to weigh 

the bag down, as if there were a rock in there; but when I check,

I can only find some old, leaky biros.

Eternity must sound like the interior of an overnight Greyhound bus:

years going by like the broken line outside,

the intermittent interrogations of zips 

opening and closing forever in the darkness

while I grope for these familiar handles,

twisted until they’re almost inside out

but still with the kindness of a fellow-passenger

fitting comfortably in my palm

my rummaging a promise 

to accompany this object on its journey

as it attends to me on mine.

Isi Unikowski lives in Canberra, Australia.  He has been widely published in Australia and overseas, including Best Australian Poetry 2022 and shortlistings for the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize (US) and the Bridport Prize (UK).  His published poetry can be viewed at https://www.isiunikowski.net. His first collection, Kintsugi, was published in August 2022 by Puncher & Wattman, New South Wales.  

Artwork by Kita Das.