In another country with strangers

by Greta Bolger
The Waters
Third Place, May 2019
Judged by Melissa Studdard


On this side of the border, my dead
are still with me. My sons, my mother
have also made the trip, join me in the night,
give me another chance to care for them,

hear their words, before they disappear again.
The lavender in the courtyard is full of bees
that don’t bite, only pollinate. My Spanglish
is long on buzzing nouns, short on conjugation.

Traveling alone opens a door into a self
both truer and more invented than the one
at home, chips away at your secret boredom,
loosens the lids on gift boxes you’d forgotten,

that you were saving for who knows who,
so that you can freely pass your treasures around,
watch to see who takes them, shares their own,
speaks your language, takes to your kind.


“In another country with strangers” offers a fascinating consideration of how place impacts not only who we are but how our relationships with others are affected by the shifts that occur with travel and relocation. Varied settings and experiences open different rooms within the self, granting both the narrator and the poem great gifts to share. --Melissa Studdard

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