I have a backpack

Words and Artwork by Jaime (she/her), 22 QLD

I have a backpack,
It bare and new,
Still smells like the shop,
But I have a backpack.

My mother helps fill it with
Clothes, and toiletries;
Her tears, and my hat;
A big tub of sunscreen and some guilt.

Dad lets me go like a
Magician releasing a dove.
Mum lets me go like a
Rubber band that’s stretched to snap.

Off I go,
Down any path
That suits my feet.

My mum cries on the phone,
tells me she loves me so much,
that all she wants is for me to come back,
how badly she sleeps because she’s worried for me.
I reassure her,
And then in the morning
I pack my backpack,
And off I go again,
Down any path suits my feet.

My feet ache,
My money did get stolen at
Some point,
Tears were shed in the
Quiet of the night,
And I’m having so much fun.

Here I am,
On my own
with my backpack.
I’ve never gotten to know
Someone better.

My parents call.
Mum cries for me to come home,
Tells me how at peace she will be
When I return.
After we hang up,
I have guilt for dinner,
And let it rumble in my guts all night long.

Blisters are wearing their way
Into my shoulders,
As I stuff a memory,
And a moment,
And a souvenir in another
Pocket of my backpack.
Its getting too heavy.
Something needs to go.

After multiple attempts at rearranging
And rearranging, and rearranging,
I finally make it all fit.
In the morning, off I go again.
I don’t even notice that I’ve
Left my mother’s tears behind.

I see mountains, and lakes,
And smiles and history.
I taste culture and spice,
And listen to a new
Mosquito sing into the night
every place I go.

When I finally get the urge
To come home,
The craving for a mum-hug and a dad-joke
Too much to fast away from,
I don’t hesitate.
Off I go,
Down the path that knows my feet.

My backpack is now
Full of patches and keychains,
Scratches and a bit of
Mud on the front pocket
that I cannot get off no matter
How hard I scrub.

My shoes have holes and
Somewhere along the way I
Got a new hat.
I feel used but new.
A flower that has seen the world,
And blossoms each spring
Because of it.

So when I walk through the doors,
The guilt I never digested
Makes me wonder if my parents will recognise me,
This new person I like being.

My mother cries when she sees me,
And Dad gives me a tight hug.
The dog even whines when it
Trots up to my feet.
I am wanted, and I was missed.

In the mornings spent at home,
Mum tells me about all her good dreams,
And how quiet her head feels.
She likes the gifts I brought her,
But she’s mostly relieved I brought myself
Back to her.

Eventually, it is time to
Go again.
I tell my mother and she
bawls into my shoulder
As she hugs me.
She doesn’t look me in the eye,
And I’m worried I may throw my own
Guilt up on the carpet.

But when morning comes,
And the road is long,
The backpack full,
I notice the muddy stain on
The front pocket gone,
And my mother’s hands reeking
Of washing powder.

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