Two poems by Timothy Kercher


Then, I placed my faith
in resurrection
of walls, the naïve
holy water aspergillum
sprinkle to rebirth
a village. I stood
in the skeleton
of houses, concrete-brick
covered lime
riddled with cancer
of field guns. Doused heart-
break of wood in stoves
had been gone for a year. As
through eye-holes, wind
ripped through the windows
of refugees or the dead.
Now, eleven years
removed, I’ve returned: a town
where wisps of wood-
smoke fill the Autumn air
like incense, stars
like bullet holes
in the night’s black-
burial gown. Silhouettes
of houses grow
tall like pines. The village’s heart
beats with a crackle
of wet-wood fire. But where
is my faith? The war’s scars
I knew are covered
and I can’t find bullet holes
through which to poke
my fingers. In the eleven years
between my last day and now
I’ve lost too much
to the endless shooting
stars, a town that is no longer
a husk shucked
like me. It says: Get up
and walk
. I don’t know how.

Luggage Lost

I shipped my heart from Tbilisi
to Kyiv in twelve pieces—four suitcases,
six duffels, a bike box, and one loose
wheel. I was not the one who packed the box,
not the one who lugged it to the airport,
not the one who bribed the customs officers
with cognac and a box of chocolates—
I was the one who received the call,
was told the luggage had arrived,
the one who paid for an airport taxi,
the one who was told I needed
the packing slip I did not have. They sent me
home to search for it, and I searched
my mailbox for a document
stating my heart was in transit,
searched my pockets, my email,
even searched my own soul, and deep
inside my soul’s inner circle¸
there it was, a packing slip listing
all twelve pieces were gone so I went back
and presented the slip to the customs officer
wearing the teal uniform and a Soviet-
high brim hat. He told me to go elsewhere,
to a building just east of Borispyl, so
I went to a building with a little hole
in the wall, and behind the wall
stood a little woman. I handed
her my papers, gave her some money,
and then she shuffled some papers
with my papers and told me
that my luggage does not exist
on her computer. This was the very
moment in which I was beginning to
doubt my own existence, doubt my heart
had ever been sent, doubt that luggage
in transit had a home at all, doubt if
it mattered if the plane carrying those
twelve pieces would ever land, and during
all this doubting, the woman searched
again, told me to wait outside then waved me
back in, returned my passport
and money and told me to wait
for the next flight, wait even though
Tbilisi had confirmed the luggage had
been sent five days ago, even though
someone at Borispyl had called saying
my luggage had arrived, saying that all
I had to do was show up and claim
what was once mine for it to be
mine once again—

three weeks passed and I didn’t hear
a thing, started to think I could live without
it, started to think the life I lived before
had all been a dream. And then I
received a phone call, was told one bag
had been found, and even though
I felt nothing, I made the journey
back to the baggage claim’s
exit door, met a large man who spoke
little English, and went down one
floor to Lost Luggage where I found each piece, one
after the other, identifying the packaging through
thick plastic bags. I piled it all together, loaded
it up on luggage carts, could almost hear
my heart beating like a radio that had
been switched on inside a bag, could
feel my heart’s outline when I ran my hand
along the duffels, could see my heart for
what it really was when I held the loose
mountain bike wheel, felt the stickiness
of the rubber tires, spun it for just a moment
on its axis, my many-spoked heart,
O, the ventricles of the wheel, of the multi-
chambered rubber, and the beating
it takes when we ride as though
it will last forever, ride it as though
we will never lose track—

About the author

Timothy Kercher has moved from Colorado to the Republic of Georgia and now finds himself in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he is currently editing and…

Read the full bio

Issue 14 · February 2012

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