What we don’t think of packing by Eleonore Schönmaier

Poem title: What we don’t think of packing

Poet name: by Eleonore Schönmaier

Poem: but take along anyway: the shoes on our feet,

the fifty-four bones in our hands, the memory of

the colour of the sheets on our beds. We prepare

for flight as if we and the customs officers are the only


ones who will ever open our baggage. Nightshirts close

to the suitcase’s zipper so when we arrive we can quickly

begin to restore what we thought we’d lost. Certain kinds

of loss we bargain for in transit: eight hours of sleep,

the memory of where we parked the car—


In Canada a man stands at the end

of his driveway talking to a neighbour: I received

the call—search and rescue. There was no screaming, no

arms hanging loose. The helicopter shone light on the water

and we picked up what there was—


When I walk the beach with the kids

I know what I’m looking for.

I found a piece of plane and slipped it into my pocket.

Didn’t tell the kids—a scrap

the size of a two dollar coin.


Loss jangling, except it’s in a currency

no one else understands even if they were on the boat

when he cupped the child’s sneaker in his palm, insisted

the police promise to return it to the family—We never


anticipate losing the memories of what we have already lost—

End of poem.

Credits and bio: Copyright © Eleonore Schönmaier

Previously published in Treading Fast Rivers (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1999).


Eleonore Schönmaier is the author of poetry, essays, and fiction. Born into a working class migrant family, she was raised in a northern wilderness settlement. She has also lived on the shores of Lake Ontario, the North Sea, and the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Her many awards include the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, the National Broadsheet Contest prize, the Sheldon Currie Fiction award (second place), the Dave Williamson National Short Story award (honourable mention), and the Earle Birney Prize. In 2022 she received a Writers’ Union of Canada grant to write an essay about love. Her poems have been set to music by Greek, Dutch, Scottish, American and Canadian composers including Carmen Braden, Michalis Paraskakis, and Emily Doolittle. The New European Ensemble and the St Andrews New Music Ensemble have performed her poetry in concert. Her latest collection is Field Guide to the Lost Flower of Crete (McGill-Queen’s University Press). Wavelengths of Your Song (MQUP) was published in German translation as Wellenlängen deines Liedes (parasitenpresse, 2020). Dust Blown Side of the Journey (MQUP) was a finalist for the Eyelands Book Awards 2020 (Greece). Her poetry has been widely anthologized in the United States and Canada including in Best Canadian Poetry.