leaving the castle by the lake

Equating home with family had always made sense to her before she had lived anywhere but this boreal country.  She knew with certainty that she was out of place here:  From her brash American-ness to her multi-ethnic appearance, no one could mistake that she was not of this land and never would be.  Curly black hair wild under her attempt at a hand-knit beanie, children still stared at her in unabashed wonder of her origin.  She had come here for her own children, but even though they could sponsor her residency, they could not make her any more acceptable in this place.

Nevertheless, she found a strange sense of peace in her bubble of otherness.  She was largely left alone, only spoken to when absolutely necessary, able to bask in her own thoughts during the quiet school days and nights when the children were asleep.  She filled the silence with songs and soliloquies or the quiet tapping of her fingers on the keyboard.  Soul food was different here, but nevertheless filled her belly with its bland richness.  Taking up a national hobby, she brushed off her needles and knit with abandon as if her creations would inspire admiration from anyone but herself.  One morning, she realized that she had dreamed in a language not her own, and thought:  Am I finally one of them?

She imagined what it would be like to go back from whence they came.  Things had changed:  Her homeland was a foreign country, more foreign than this place.  Her house had been renovated while she was gone.  Old landmarks and routines were no longer familiar.  Her driver’s license had expired long ago.  She could hardly remember street names or locations even though she had lived there for twelve years.  Shocking what absence could do.  For some, homesickness made the imprint of memories stronger.  She had never been homesick–her brand of sentimentality never allowed it.  All she had done was waved goodbye, let go, faced forward, and jumped head-first into a singular adventure of her own making.

Now in the kitchen, she peered through the blinds.  Much of her time here had been spent looking, staring, observing with intention.  She searched the evergreens in the distance, eyes stopping only once they lit upon her favorite building in the town.  In the summertime it was not visible; the foliage of cottonwood trees lining the back fence of the parking lot obscured the view.  But now, during the winter, the bare bones of the trees framed the castle with their phalanges.  It was tiny at this distance, even though she could reach it in fifteen minutes on foot if she left the apartment right now.  Its cone roof, slate grey against the sky.  Although she could not see it, she knew the lake, its face undisturbed, provided the perfect backdrop.  At night it was obsidian, reflecting the lights of the town.  In the long summer days it was wreathed with her favorite lupines in purple, pink and white.  The flowers and the lake were etched into her arm by a tattoo artist named Sanni.  The short-lived pain of carrying this special spot with her seemed a small price to pay.

She would miss this place. She felt a sadness that enveloped her entire being.  It was so powerful that she had to hold her breath to push it down.  She no longer knew where she belonged; too removed from her previous life, not enough invested in this one to plant herself firmly in a land of strangers who welcomed her as a curiosity.  There was no place that felt like home.  She wondered if there ever would be, and who she would have to become to find it.

(written 12 january 2018)

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no. 104

i miss you already

it’s cliché, but i miss you already, even though I’ve not yet left

your eyes, blue skies, with their cloudy cataracts of nostalgia

the music of your voice, its alveolar trill and sibilance render me bereft

i have begun, preemptively, to pull away, embrace melancholia

 

the deep lakes of emotion that reside within your border

they fill my heart with longing though i may still bathe in their waves

i cannot escape this sadness hemming me inside of your wild order

the birches and tar pines of your arms afford me the embrace i crave

 

please console me, tell me i do not have to go so far away

that i mustn’t strip you from my soul in order to survive the pain of leaving

tell me you’ll always be here, unchanged, so that someday

i can return to your forests, your lakes, your streets, without grieving

 

but i know this is not possible and that is why my cheeks are wet

you’ll change and grow, you’ll move beyond me as you do

and so i’ll gaze upon your face glad i must not leave just yet

when i return i know my face will be unfamiliar to you too

 

more than 1000 nights i have slept in your cocoon

does that mean that you’ve become a part of my very essence

a scent that never leaves my skin

or will you slowly drift away, slip like silk from my memory

fade in the sunlight and misty rain of my new abode?

(written 3 june 2018)

no. 93

at the football stadium

i want to go under the bleachers with you.

it’s not just some high school fantasy,

but a memory dredged up

made me think about you.

i want to find a quiet spot and,

without irony, hold your hand,

even though i may be coy or silly.

maybe i’ll avoid your eyes,

looking instead at the raindrops

that cling to the bottoms of the seats above.

we’ll laugh when they land on our cheeks.

are we in a movie?

i want to go under the bleachers with you.

it’s a starry-eyed notion,

in the vein of those embarrassing and painfully perfect

romantic comedies i used to watch.

those days are not yet far enough away

for me to regard them with amusement;

i never held hands at football games

or wore a high school sweetheart’s jacket.

will you lend me yours?

(written  18 september 2015)

 

no. 78

tomorrow will be stone

don’t look back

 

too late,

already a pillar of salt

 

legs welded to the point of origin

arms forever cured

many years from now gravity will

claim them

 

don’t worry it won’t be painful

au contraire, it will be a relief

 

no more worries

fears already faced and now

the ahead of behind

is well known

 

so settle in and let the inevitable

take hold of the destiny that it now owns

 

it’s so easy to yearn for the past

and relinquish responsibility for the future

yesterday seared in memory while

today’s uncertainty proved that

 

tomorrow will be stone

(written 2 may 2018)