When you have moved houses,
And countries, as many times
As I have, your life
Ends up in boxes … protected by cardboard
And wrapped in fading newsprint.
My fragmented past contained within.

And sometimes I open them immediately
And sometimes I leave them for later.
When I suddenly miss my favourite vase
To put some lilies in, or the weighing scales
Are needed to accurately bake a cake. Then I realise
I need things which I have lived too long without.

I take a rusty antique blade and slit
The tape. Opening the lid,
First I find some bags of shells,
Their perfect delicacy wrapped in tissue,
And I wonder on which far off Eastern shore
They were roughly washed up on.

Next, a honey-coloured antique pot which transports me
To France - a stolen hour in a brocante barn - and several
Green and blue bowls made of southern gallic earth.
Two chinese ginger jars, plundered on a long ago
Portobello morning from the box of someone else's life,
Remind me of him, when we used to laugh together.

A bag of a dead husband's shirts … kept for the son
Who will probably never wear them, as they
Are different sizes … they still smell faintly of him.
But that's just in my imagination. This is like
A Lucky Dip, but the bran yields random memories
Instead of tawdry prizes.

Three wooden butter pots, that when I take the lids off
And sniff, take me back to a Nepalese lake on a morning
Where the razor-sharp air made me feel so alive.
They smell of Tibet, and, redolent of yak
Conjure images of black plaited hair, monks chanting,
And the unearthly sound of blown conch shells.

Next, a mah jong game … never used … because there never
Seemed to be four people who knew how to play.
Then, catalogues of auctions, where I sold off
Parts of my life, when there wasn't room, space, to keep
All of it intact. And a picture of a cat surrounded by kittens,
Some of whom only live on in this fading photograph.

And this is only one box … of many.
And sometimes I feel like Pandora, the temptation
Too great to leave the box unopened.
And sometimes I want to leave them unopened for ever …
Bury the various lives within. But I can't, as things must be found,
Sorted and tidied away - a temporary order regained.

And sometimes I think, maybe it should all be thrown away.
It shouldn't be that hard. But I know I must hoard my memories
In brown boxes … parts of my past contained in them always.
Carried with me through life, as I wander blindly
From there to here. And worried now whether I'm ever going
To find that place called home … where the heart is supposed to be.