M---- (1989; another fragment)

4-29-04, 1:37 a.m.

Because I can't sleep and it's your fault
(evil one)
I find myself driven to poetry.
Not a road I've driven down a lot lately:
I used to drive this way a lot,
stop, get out of the car,
walk around, poke through the underbrush.
Things are a little overgrown here now--
not thorny so much as tangled,
the sort of brush you can make your way
through, but only if you go slowly.
Slowly, like you told me
(evil one)
but anyway I find myself here,
truck stopped,
by the side of the road
looking at the underbrush--
poking around a little, seeing
if maybe there's a deer path or
some other way in that's not so brambly.
Because there's something very compelling
about this underbrush that leads to
poetry, leads to . . .
well I don't really remember where it leads;
I don't think I ever got that far into the brush, just
wandered around, went poking through trails,
then went back to the road,
back where I was going before--
forgot about the brambles, about
until the next time something drew me back.
(evil one)
something tells me there's jasmine in that thicket--
jasmine and honeysuckle and other scents.
I take another breath, feel a dry breeze;
the air hints at something,
something within the thicket:
I glance at the road
where my truck is waiting--
I'm supposed to be going somewhere,
following plans,
hadn't planned on being distracted by
jasmine and honeysuckle and
brambles by the roadside and
poetry and
(evil one)
so I glance again at the road,
then at the thicket;
if I see a path, the road can wait a while.

When I am an old man
I shall go
home for the holidays
home for the holidays.

At two, home meant Ocean Gate:
a little green house where I ran through a field of cacti once; their spines stuck to me fiercely.
I played on my little red fire engine, left behind in the move.
The world was an exciting and magical place.

At five, home meant Ventnor:
Sunday afternoons with lox and whitefish and kippered salmon.
My father sliced tomatoes paper thin, taking great pride in his craft
before leaving again, to spend the week in Philadelphia.

By the time I was six my father left for good.
Home stayed in Ventnor, the house near the beach:
long walks by the ocean, bike rides down to the amusement piers, sunrises over the water.

When I am an old man
I shall go
home for the holidays.

As a teenager, home was a lonely place.
Time spent with friends still felt like time alone, apart.
And home was a place inside, a place for keeping secrets.

In Philadelphia, I grew, alone,
and tried to grow together: married well but not wisely.
In Philadelphia I learned that two could live as lonely as one.

Later, I learned to teach:
learned to touch others, to reach out and help them come alive;
learned the world was a magical place when others saw it through my eyes.
Later, I learned to see what they saw.
The world was an exciting and magical place.

When I am an old man
I shall go
home for the holidays
home for the holidays.

looking back at the past year on Rosh Hashana;
spending Yom Kippur walking down a trail through the state forest, thinking and praying;
called up to the Bimah for the first time frightened and excited, in my grandfather's Tallit;
saying Kaddish for my father, gone for good;
leading services for the first time, singing strong and clear and unfaltering;
singing at Passover, family together and strong and joyous, passing through troubled times;
next year in Jerusalem.

Next year in Jerusalem:
eyes turn toward home,
toward the Wall, toward freedom, toward peace, toward love, toward hope.
This year, may you find hope and peace in Jerusalem.

When I am an old man
I shall go
home for the holidays
home for the holidays.

By the time I was six my father left for good.
Fast-forward thirty years and home is about people, not places.
And holidays are about people, not places.
And places are about people, not places.

When I am an old man
I shall go
home for the holidays
home for the holidays.

The woman I was dating at the time was flying to Israel the next day for an extended, likely relationship-ending trip, and it started me thinking about different meanings of "home," and how they evolve over the course of our lives. I still like the heavy rhythm of the refrain, though I'm not sure I agree with my own argument here...sometimes home is about place as much as it's about people, but I didn't really want to think about it that way in the emotional state I was in when I wrote it.

Copyright © 2004 by Leigh Grossman