The Suitcase

W.M. Butler


Buried twelve feet below the rich black soil of Battle River you will find a blue cardboard suitcase.  The belly of this suitcase holds eight years worth of my writing, consisting mostly of poetry written between 1996 and 2004. The majority was type written on once clean white paper using my ancient green Remington, though what effect years spent suspended in the fertile earth of that river valley has done to that suitcase, to those words is a question that cannot be answered until it is dug up. If it can be dug up and found under the crumbling remnants of a one hundred year old foundation that once belonged to a one hundred year old farmhouse.

If the suitcase ever surfaces, if the ground gives it up, if the suitcase climbs out of the murky depths of what was once most assuredly a vast ocean before an ice age or two had its way with that little piece of land; before mountains scraped their bullying stone feet across what is now a sea of grassland. If it does come up for air again if you open it, it will yield those pages like the whale delivering Jonah to the shores of Nineveh. Though I doubt the words held within my battered old suitcase could inspire such as the word of God inspired an entire great city of people in worship to Ishtar the goddess of Love, War and Death, Daughter to Anu to cover themselves in ash and repent. Nor could those words serve as Jonah did to inspire the foundations of the Bahá’í faith nor lead a man like Bahá’u’lláh to become a latter day prophet holding his place with Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

What those words might inspire is now beyond me and is of no consequence, as I am now dead, as I must assuredly be if you are reading this. What you do with them is up to you. How, if you choose to distribute them is up to you. If you wish to leave them where they lay that again it is of no consequence to me. Do as you will but if you do find them and you do read them I hope they at least lead you to understand me, to know me a little better then you did before I left.

Inside that box you will be introduced to the people that I knew, the people that where apart of my life. You will learn of a time when I did not exist for you. What I was, who I was before I met you is a mystery as I had only ever told you pieces, fragments of that life and never did I lay out my history in a coherent timeline for you to pick over with shoulders hunched in serious study late at night, eyes straining under the nakedness of a sixty watt bulb. You know only what I told you, what I let you see. Inside that box you will find who I was and how I became the man you knew up until such a short time ago. If you read what you find, you will meet four old lovers and my dead grandfather. You will learn of a night deep in the biting teeth of winter where I almost died under the rumbling chaos of a freight train and how I was delivered flat on my back beneath the constellations spinning, embraced by a bed of the whitest snow. You will read tales of piracy and daring do involving my father and brothers. You will be introduced to a woman I never had the chance to love but did anyway, you will find her at the bottom of an icy blue lake sleeping high in the Rockies. You will learn of my sins, my confessions and my shame. You will read of many, many things both great and small, my fears and my hopes. You will see me, as I knew myself to be. A coward at times to be sure but fearless too, when it mattered (I hope). Everything you pleaded for me to show you, give you, share with you can be found in those pages, all the good and the bad.

I am reminded now of what Steinbeck wrote in the dedication to East of Eden (one of the greatest books ever written.) to his dear friend Pat Covici,

Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said, “Why don’t you make something for me?”

I asked you what you wanted, and you said, “A box.”

“What for?”

“To put things in.”

“What things?”

“Whatever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts—the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still, the box is not full.

That’s what is in the box, that old blue suitcase buried twelve feet down deep under stone and clay, under soil so soft. What you will find there is most everything that is me, about what I saw, what I experienced and perceived in this world. It’s yours, all of it and of course it is still not full, it is not all of me, but it’s near enough as matters now, as could ever really matter.

All my love,