I went back to my childhood home
and midst the rustle of the new year
took a walk through back-acre trails.
Stomping grounds of old have grown cold. I remember them,
warm with promise of adventure. I explored for hours,
flattening fields and breaking branches,
the fire of youth burning in my boots.
The staccato spikes of soybeans stripped clean by wandering deer,
appeared and disappeared out of drifts. The wind
off the field (honest, direct)
blew through me with force,
scent-shot with distant wood smoke,
steel, snow-soaked sod.
The trails feel odd now,
but the wind I know well.
Is this renewal?
To see the Old by the New,
the forgotten by the memory…
my feet and heart were here.
Every step pounded roots deeper into this clay acre.
I touched this bark and branded memories to mind.
I was present here, and having been absent so long,
the roots are shadows, the damage done,
the mark made on this man
by things I don’t and do recall,
in places I do and don’t understand.
My roots are elsewhere now,
deep in elsewhere people,
tracking other terroirs.
So I stood on the edge of the field
and opened my heart to the wind
to hear the stories of struggles and triumphs borne in small places
of this country, of this heart, of this mind.
The smallest roots run long and deep,
like the smell of winter fields,
like the texture of ragged trees.
We talk of impact,
as if by force we will be remembered,
as if by speed old pain will pass away.
But it is slow erosion
of ice seeping into rock, smelling of shrapnel, cold and hot at once,
or the caress of a yellow sky at four in the afternoon (eastern);
or the silence of Indiana light broken but by sparrow-call,
or the sound of steaming splashes on the dish,
or the coffee poured into the cup with the chipped handle,
or the wind off the rich and fallow field:
these are embedded so deep my skin has closed over them.
These can’t be removed.
These things make us, if we let them;
and when we return, they embrace us as old friends.
When I reach the city tomorrow, will it embrace me?
Perhaps. I forget if I’ve let it.