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Touring Europe
by Maggie Kirton

Had I been tucked inside your suitcase, rolled up within your socks, I would have long ago escaped. Can you see me wandering the outskirts of an old and long memory, searching for the dusty road I once imagined in a poem when I was six? A dusty road where a rose grew, blossomed, and then faded away behind me as I skipped through the dust on my way to nowhere in particular. I can’t decide which holds greater importance: the road, the rose, the dust, the lost poem, or just knowing I am on my way.

Had I been tucked inside your shoes I might have mocked such a blunder on my part. Can you see me on my way? Off with the shoes! as my bare toes reach to find the weathered and smooth edges of the red-brown clay. Ah! the silence of ancient cobblestones as they reach up into my soul; how I have longed to feel their warmth again.

Had I been tucked inside your pocket, I would have long ago climbed out. Can you see me standing on the jagged edges of a castle wall - edges that clutch the hillside as I look down into the valley along the Rhine? The air brings the scent of the fishermen’s craft deep into my lungs, as even the stench of it fills my heart with joy! Can you see the river boats as they hug the shore on their way downstream – a shore that pulls those whose calendar is too crowded into its calming, enchanting embrace?

Had I been tucked inside your suitcase, I would have long ago escaped its folds and crevices. Where is the penny to drop into a well that already holds a fortune? I make a wish to stay forever, to never leave again. Leave me here when you go back home; leave me with the memories of this tender time.

Leave me searching for the curve in the dark forest that holds the lion’s head with a mouth that drips the earth’s pure water into a mossy and shady stone basin. Leave me standing on that little hill – my Opa’s arm around my shoulder as he quietly weeps with tattooed ghosts that roam the buildings of Dachau. Leave me in the garden – spitting cherry pits through the hole in the fence. Leave me in the castle so that I might, once and for all, discover the secret passageway that leads down to the valley. Leave me on the shore of the Rhine – watching the river boats and barges come and go. Leave me inside the trains’ underpasses – gathering courage to remain there when the trains pass overhead. Leave me beside the dusty road and let me be on my way.

When you come home, some will ask if you learned the language. And you’ll smile; nod your head. You’ll reply that it wasn’t that hard; it’s much easier to learn after the controlling calendar lies shredded and dormant beneath the warmth of a single cobblestone; it’s much easier to learn when significance is given to the choice to roam. They will ask you: “Who taught you to speak this way?”

You might reply that it was a woman who speaks too much when she’s nervous and fidgets with things, smokes too much when she’s stressed; who is not yet a friend, nor is she a stranger and from whom you did not expect/wish to learn in the least; a woman who writes unsolicited, melodramatic letters while criss-crossing the line between what she wishes for and what really is; a woman who, with appalling influence, encouraged you to remember why you are there and that it has little to do with books and teachers and class time, because there’s time enough for those things; a woman who ached to teach you the language that has no syllables, no long and short vowels, no rhyme, and words that make no sound; a woman who taught you that the language of valued memories rooted in adventurous youth speak the loudest language of all.

You might say she is only a woman who snuck into your suitcase uninvited, and then promptly escaped. You left her there, in Germany, and perhaps one day you might go back and find her . . . remind her that those things she searched for have long ago been replaced with mortar, new stone pathways, and better technology. You might remind her that Germany is not the only place where memories can be created with calm and peace; and then, you might bring her back home in your suitcase . . .


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