(On returning back to Cincinnati after a road trip to see a best friend from college)
There was a time when my feeling of home was neat.
Neat like a young boy dressed up in polished, brown
leather shoes, creased slacks and a multicolored,
polo shirt from Kohl’s that cost $12.50.
I was not a troubled boy from a troubled home,
nor was I an Airforce brat tucking my teddy goodnight
in twelve different coastal cities before the age of 10.
My feeling of home, as I said, was neat.
The postman delivered my mail, mostly from relatives
at the time, for well over fifteen years … until he retired and
we got a postwoman (how progressive). We stayed in
one place so long we saw the rise and fall of a man’s entire career.
All I was really certain of was the feeling of home I felt.
There were tears for missed kisses and for scraped knees,
but there was always a bedroom to retreat to. And there
was always a stocking with my name on the Christmas mantle.
I haven’t had a feeling of home like that in twelve years.
The ‘something solid’ has been missing from my heart
and I’ve been balancing my emotions as well as
sub-prime mortgage spending at the millennium’s turn.
I’ve lived in houses since, yes, not homes. Not my home anyway.
Maybe we are all just strangers missing the same made-up
feeling of home. If we have no place to rise from, to retreat to,
to protect and keep, will we ever feel complete?
My name is carved into the wood under the marble countertop
in the kitchen at the address of 185 Nod Road Ridgefield,
Connecticut, where once stood my home.
It has since been painted over.
I am a young boy, waiting in the reeds. I crouch and make myself as small as possible, trying not to disturb the small creatures. The soft light of my home ripples in the pond as my mother calls me back inside. I’ve been trying to collect bullfrogs in a small inflatable pool; up to my ankles in mud. The green leaves are as fresh as they can be and in the distance, a faint thunderstorm echoes mildly like knocking on a soft, dead tree. The water in the pond has baked in the sun all day and remains warm to the touch while I run my fingers through the tall grass that extends out of the banks.
Up the hill, my family prepares the dinner table out on the porch; a chandelier of candles drips intermittently and the wax solidifies onto the glass table top. I take my time walking up the drive, cool blue and fresh green painting a summer’s night with fireflies sparkling in the valley between our house and the neighbor’s. Nothing could feel more safe.
I have trouble remembering how perfect it was then, my family was whole – no one was sick or separated. This was our castle on the hill and we ate dinner that night in a suspended oasis, covered from the storm by a plexiglass ceiling fixed to the side of the house. I was lucky. I don’t feel that way as much anymore.
The grove of trees beside our house
shields the city back. The honeysuckle
sprawls and covers us from our unsightly
neighbors; peering like a sea of eyes
from the looming apartment complex.
From the fire pit, the house towers
almost impossibly tall, looking while
the west side sparkles with a thousand
different colored lights.
A home to so many – sectioned off into
separate dwellings – each radiating a
different kind of energy.
The porch, lifted above the sidewalk,
provides the high-ground should any dare
to storm the castle gates. Though, we are
often too tipsy of guardsmen for such an
I will not soon forget this place I’ve lived.
I will not run from nor regret. The couple
that I share it with, are the best I’ve ever met.