Goodbye, Michigan

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet

I always knew I loved the sky,
the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time;
the way it disappears above us
even as we pursue it in a climbing plane,
like wishes or answers to certain questions—always out of reach;
the way it embodies blue,
even when it is gray.

But I didn't know I loved the clouds,
those shaggy eyebrows glowering
over the face of the sun.
Perhaps I only love the strange shapes clouds can take,
as if they are sketches by an artist
who keeps changing her mind.
Perhaps I love their deceptive softness,
like a bosom I'd like to rest my head against
but never can.

And I know I love the grass, even as I am cutting it as short
as the hair on my grandson's newly barbered head.
I love the way the smell of grass can fill my nostrils
with intimations of youth and lust;
the way it stains my handkerchief with meanings
that never wash out.

Sometimes I love the rain, staccato on the roof,
and always the snow when I am inside looking out
at the blurring around the edges of parked cars
and trees. And I love trees,
in winter when their austere shapes
are like the cutout silhouettes artists sell at fairs
and in May when their branches
are fuzzy with growth, the leaves poking out
like new green horns on a young deer.

But how about the sound of trains,
those drawn-out whistles of longing in the night,
like coyotes made of steam and steel, no color at all,
reminding me of prisoners on chain gangs I've only seen
in movies, defeated men hammering spikes into rails,
the burly guards watching over them?

Those whistles give loneliness and departure a voice.
It is the kind of loneliness I can take in my arms, tasting
of tears that comfort even as they burn, dampening the pillows
and all the feathers of all the geese who were plucked to fill

Perhaps I embrace the music of departure—song without lyrics,
so I can learn to love it, though I don't love it now.
For at the end of the story, when sky and clouds and grass,
and even you my love of so many years,
have almost disappeared,
it will be all there is left to love.

-Ms. Linda Pastan
The summer is beginning and I find myself finishing my move to Massachusetts. I want to apologize to everything I left behind. The departure we all experience at one point or at many points in life truly is beautiful, but only now, only after I cried and I was angry, after I dreamt that home was Ann Arbor and Catherine St. so earnestly. I always tell people that my home is where-ever I am currently living but for the first time in a long time was my life shaken by my own departure. As a person with simultaneously no homes and many homes, I am slowly becoming adjusted to living here in Boston. But wow, its taken so long and was such a struggle.

I am happy to find Linda Pastan's poem today on Garrison Keillor's blog. Last night my friend Andrew and I stood watching a thunderhead plunder across the sky towards the ocean, arching lightening into itself and illuminating from within. So beautiful and so frightening, I almost didn't want to turn around when I saw the horror on my roommate's face, but was glad I did.

I didn't know that leaving Michigan would also be so frightening. It wasn't a sudden shocking strike but a gradual healing of all those torn roots that slowly became painful. Like a deep cut you only notice later. Now I can begin my new garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that was a beautiful poem