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Carla Sameth, Unpacked


by Carla Sameth

Did you know? This feng shui space in the tropical breeze

of your friend’s Savannah house, the big pillared porch

is for you. A tree-climber’s dream, live oak trees stretching languorously,

Spanish moss, purple hydrangeas. “Rest here,” your friend insists,

offers a white waffle-patterned spa bathrobe.

Did you know that the birds are calling you? When thoughts

take you far away to a land rank with regret, unraveling

obsession, and rancid fear, seek the sweet birdcalls.

Return to your breath. Mothering alone all these years,

son almost lost, stepdaughter amputated.

Undone. Unblended. This is what happens to your family.

Did you know when you escape back to your writing mind,

soul and heart wholly engaged, you might not even remember

how you got there? Time will move itself. Did you know

last month, your “Coastie” wife heard from three different friends

in the Coast Guard, each story, a regurgitated acronym.

MST = Military Sexual Trauma = they destroy you, take you apart,

spit you out. Stay silent. Your fault, trauma at home, trauma abroad.

Birds sometimes talk the same language in Savannah as they do

in Pasadena. But the birds you hear in your little ship-shaped cottage hut

in Connecticut, these birds are entirely different. Their bright red,

two-part whistle, startles you awake. And yet, you cannot forget

that Los Angeles and Oakland are sex trafficking capitals of the world,

while most Americans assume this is another country’s problem.

And some of those victims, women who have been torn apart, still live.

Alive, in their lives. Some might even be caring

for your old ones. And did you know that daily meditation calms the heart,

quiets the fears but still you find it difficult. Did you know

what gratitude a smooth turning fan moving thick salty air will cause?

Just be in this white room with tropical sea smell in Savannah.

Hear the birds. Lush muggy gardens, thick air

gives your waddle a delicious feel. A little twist.

And did you know that by virtue of experiencing violence—

sexual assault or domestic violence, violence by authorities

like when the sheriff’s deputy once broke your nose,

you are more likely to be re-victimized?

Vulnerability becomes your perfume. And not because you chose it.

You carry this knowledge, you inhabit this room

because destruction has defined you.

And you’re given this place to unpack.

Carla Sameth’s memoir, One Day on the Gold Line, was originally published July 2019 and will be reissued by Golden Foothills Press in 2022. Her Chapbook, What Is Left will be published by dancing girl press this November 2021. Her writing on blended/unblended, queer, multi-racial and single parent families appears in a variety of literary journals and anthologies including: Call Me {Progress}Literary Journal (University of Alabama), The Rumpus, MUTHA Magazine, Brain/Child, Narratively, Longreads, Brevity Blog, Entropy, Anti-Heroin Chic, Global Poemic, and The Nervous Breakdown. Carla’s work has been twice named as Notable Essays of the Year in Best American Essays. A Pasadena Rose Poet, a West Hollywood Pride Poet, and a former PEN Teaching Artist, Carla teaches creative writing to high school and university students, and has taught incarcerated youth. She lives in Pasadena with her beloved partner, Milo.

Listen to Carla Sameth's on the SOREN LIT podcast:

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