Of topics I’m pretty familiar with, it’s leaving and beginning. My life resume of places lived from 18-35 is pretty extensive. I’ve written about leaving a lot. I’ve written about beginning new a lot. When I wrote this poem, I sort of new, that it was a changing point in my life. I knew at that point, the urge to leave me sort of left. The older you get, it gets harder to start new. One would probably look around my small studio apartment and think I was a minimalist, but the truth is “I’ve just moved across country,’ so many times, my possessions are in the places I left. What I have kept is a collection of odd things that are sort of remembrances to the places I’ve been. My most treasured possessions in this regard is my writing. It serves as a narrative to a lot of the possessions, I didn’t need to carry with me. There’s so many positives of spending your 20’s and 30’s living in different places in the world. I wouldn’t give the experience up for anything. Every place changed me in some capacity. There were places that were much more challenging than others. It got a lot harder after I got divorced and was now single in my early 30’s, when so many of my peers where getting married and having kids. Making friends in your 30’s in an unknown place, without a spouse or kids, is epically hard. Then there’s the considerations of family. My family all lives in one place, pretty much. After a while, I wanted to be closer to them, especially as your parents age and relatives pass. I knew when I wrote this poem, I needed to really start saving for retirement, which meant finding a job and staying. Having a core group of friends is harder. I have great friends here, but I have great friends in a lot of places that I don’t get to see much anymore and that’s hard. There are days when I see people who never left their cities/towns and have built homes and have a core group of friends that they’ve been through everything together. I have friends like that, but they don’t all live here. Some do. My friends don’t all know each other. Many of them have never met. Still, to see the world is amazing. Each place I’ve lived has challenged me, rewarded me, and changed me. I will never lose my sense of wanderlust. It’s ingrained in me. I believe once you leave ‘your home,’ you can never really ‘come back.’ When you do, the way you see the world is fundamentally different. The people around you are different. You live day to day knowing there’s a whole amazing, diverse world out there, and you’re hungry to see it all. When I wrote this poem, I knew I was entering a phase of my life where I had to learn to ‘just be.’ I had to learn (for a time) to find beginnings without physically having to move to find them. I had to learn to find a place and grow with it instead of out of it. It’s sort of like stopping dating and being committed, except it was to a place. Still, I love beginnings. I love endings. When people tell me they are moving or beginning something, something in my whole body just gets excited for them. I love thinking about the adventure they’re about to embark on, the people they will meet, the ways they will be challenged, and the ways they will overcome those challenges and grow stronger. I have always loved a good beginning. In fact, when I was in high school, an English teacher once told us, “If you read the first line of almost every novel, you will get pretty much a summary of what the book is about.” I tested it and there was some truth to it. I still love to pick up a book and just read the first sentence and think about where the writer was, in his/her mind, when they wrote it. What a task! Choosing the very first words to kick off a story that is going to take readers on an adventure. Similarly, the ending of books, movies, shows is important to me. Some people love a good wrap up ending. I can be for that in certain situations, but in a story, typically, unless we’re going epic, we are getting a glimpse into a period of time. It’s a fragment of the character’s life typically or a time in a certain place, etc. In those instances, although I want to know more about the characters, if I’ve been invested in them. I also love seeing where the writer sees fit to leave the story. I recognize that until we are not, we are unending stories. When I wrote this poem, I was thinking about ‘endings,’ and ‘beginnings.’ I was ending this period of dating places in the world and trying to begin to be committed to one place. I also love ‘endings’ and ‘beginnings,’ I was thinking about how I would encourage someone who was going off on a new journey. For now, I’m committed for a period of time to a place, a job, my family here. There are beginnings and endings in life when we don’t even leave or move. I will enjoy those and travel to subside my wanderlust when I can. If I get to grow old enough to retire, I hope to have a second wave of ‘beginnings and endings,’ with more travel. At that moment, I just had these words to subdue my excitement for whoever finds themselves at a beginning or an ending. Cheers, I hope you enjoy the journey! (Also, I just wanted to note the last line of the poem was written years before the pandemic hit. I considered changing the wording, but I like how it is used. I realize it’s a sensitive word in this time, but I wrote this before we all lived to learn what a pandemic really is).
Beginnings and Endings
Leave, not with a tear, but with a hug
among the lives you will paint in words,
they have absence and abundance,
the hunger for the lacking and the full belly for what satiated.
Dreams you want and dreams you don’t.
Leave on a night after a slow disco
so you’ll remember the way ghosts dance,
the way your hand touched each hand
and let go, leaving you spinning in the center,
the crystal ball and you illuminating the room.
Leave, if you must, begin again, somewhere,
someone wants to hear you laugh, somewhere
lonely wind doesn’t have room to blow across vast despair.
Someone is there bearing a small repair.
Somewhere what you believe is not is everywhere.
Leave and the home you start in will not be your home.
No home ever is. So every home can become to be.
Return yourself to the smallness of yourself.
Let yourself be free of the map
that misses the mountain your heart can become.
Beginning always means close walls and reticent dark.
Proximities to tempt a boy to compare.
You are used to stillness coming down,
to nights falling slow. You are so untouched here
by what you see. You invent lives in your head for strangers on the street.
Begin with expectations driven by the car out back,
rusting and going nowhere, it’s good to have to
depend on transporting yourself. Keep your radio tuned
to the radio station stuck in the 1960’s, leave
listening to music from another time.
Begin, thinking of a place, that feels so very real,
learn the objects and the places in imagination,
the coffee shop, the city dump, the ankle bracelet
the girl walking downtown will never give up on
until it’s lost. The no tell motels, the ghosts.
Begin so-truth hungry you cannot eat,
so war-weary that all you dream of is peace,
so noteworthy that everything will feel insignificant but your vision.
so rock-steady that only you can break yourself,
but unsteady enough to let this new place turn you into who you need to be.
Begin as if you’re trying to get rid of yourself.
Be clean enough that your mother would have tucked you in.
When you arrive, follow the alluring moons path and progress,
laugh in cafes, squeeze hands of those who need comfort,
believe in the first revealing dawns, let your true self
pass through your mouth to theirs like the flu.
It’s time to let your true self spread pandemic style.