Tag Archive: longing


The pollen of elms troubles my eyes

Tears,
How mine eyes
Tear and weep.

Is it the pollen of elms?
New Haven’s eponymous trees?
The elms are back from weakness, disease.
I return from there, too.

We gather,
Sit beneath the great
Barrel vaults. The
Florid rood floats, almost,
Overhead.
Faces in faux-ancient
Glass gaze down.
“Do we remember you?”
Their stares draw my
Gaze to them, to the
Western light, the
Vesper glow.

What tears! Is it the
Pollen of elms, or the
Bright sun, which
Makes me weep?
Such distorted vision—
Prismatic view!

Whom do I see?
Friends long since departed,
To both other places and planes.
The bat boy flitters nude across the parlor,
The chunky one flounces before the tube,
Taunting the weird, bearded one.
Beets pour forth,
An endless sea of beets.
And the fragrant, baked egg yolks.
The lazy man naps in the dining room niche.
Jolly rings.
The first real love approaches—
What fear!
Funky, chunky,
crazy, annoying,
Krauts, Canucks,
Tiger Lily,
Beer me!
Leona Helmsley lives again.
Miner, Murray,
Lara, Lackstrom.
Faces pass in eye mist:
Newberry, Dwight, Marquand—
Pipes by the thousands.
Velut maris stella!

Two Dots… then a dash?
No, stay!
I cannot.
I must go
To grow.

I have gone.
Are you still there?
Yes. No.

When I close my weeping eyes,
I see you.

I open my eyes,
And you are there
In the tears.
“There we sat down,
Yea, we wept.
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?”

I am back!
You are here…
You are gone.
Your face, your smile,
Your voice.
We meet, embrace,
Reminisce.

Friendly faces
Peer from the windows I pass.
Again, I return,
Must go.
All my godsons,
How they’ve grown!
And my Mentor
Prepares for a final
Dismissal.

I can’t see.
My nose drips.
Images and memories
The allergens,
But not the irritant:
It is the absence,
The distance.

I hear “Singet”
And remember when
I last sang
Truly well.
Under the elms.

I am here again—
Hello!
Must I say good-bye?

A score of years
Since I arrived,
Yet even after so many away,
It is still a reuniting
To return.

Could I have left
My heart in New Haven?
Hardly, you say,
Skeptical.
And yet,
Why this weeping
When I return?

Is it only the
Myopia of age and
Nostalgia that makes me see only
Your warm smile?
Has the cheek sunken?
The hair thinned?
The waist grown?

Or are you still the
Rough Beauty
I came to love?

Wipe the tears,
And let me see
You, in the
Vesper Light
Filtered through the saints,
And the elms.

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I wish she hadn’t asked?

At the end of Spring 2012, I was having coffee with a new friend in Chicago, where I had been living for three months by then. She, also a relative newcomer to town (and the United States) knew firsthand about making a dramatic, long-distance move, something I’ve done four times now (albeit only within the United States). Through her new relationship, she had also come to know the little corner of the world (Central New York) that, even after 20 years of living away, I still instinctively call home.

After I answered her question about my hops around the country since college (Orlando, Santa Barbara, Washington, and now, Chicago), she asked, “When you were in high school in Hamilton, did you ever think that you would live in so many faraway places?”

I replied, “No.”

The next question was like an electric shock. My answer, which sprang forth reflexively, has changed my perspective like few other things in my life.

“How do you feel about it?”

“I’m homesick every day.”

In that one statement, I finally found the reason for my daily obsession with summers that are too hot and humid, winters that are too mild and snowless, streets that are too crowded for bicycling, roads that are too heavily trafficked for high beams at night, landscapes that are too flat for inspiration, distances that are too great for escapes to my spiritual refuges, local populations missing the ethnic diversity I knew as a child, farmers markets that are too expensive, and an utter lack of tomato pie or half-moons.

Longing and exploration have been frequent subtexts in this blog, but now I want to make the search for home an explicit part of my output. We may not all be homesick, but many of us could benefit from a deeper sense of home wherever we are; or wherever we must, or choose to, go. I invite you to join me on this ramble through woods and villages, peering over ridges and into windows. What makes a place home?

I’m glad she asked.