How lucky I am to have something that saying good-bye is so hard.
A. A. Milne
by Gerald Stern
I wanted to know what it was like before we
had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
had minds to move us through our actions
and tears to help us over our feelings,
so I drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
and filled her car with suitcases and hugged her
as an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
and turned my head after them as an animal would,
watching helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
her smiling face and her small hand just visible
over the giant pillows and coat hangers
as they made their turn into the empty highway.
Departures and arrivals, leaving and returning home, this is the way of summer vacations and more metaphysical deliberations on the meaning of “home.” I have wished loved ones off this past week and depart myself on multiple journeys over the course of the next few. But it is a much more interesting and ominous departure I am contemplating of late, a departure from “things.” It is cliche to talk about how the things we possess come in time to possess us, but why else do we pay such elaborate mortgages and taxes to afford houses or condos large enough to store all the things a middle aged person accumulates? I have had a rule for the past year; for everything that is brought in something has to depart. It works to a point but inevitably the scale tips towards more and never toward less. It takes something radical to actually move the needle in the direction of fewer things.
My possessions consist mostly of clothing, books, music and art these days. None of it expensive or elaborate. None of the categories are large enough to be called a collection, and yet it is much to large to be easily relocated. So who owns whom? I spend little time in the condo in which they are housed, and yet I pay the bills each month so that my pictures can hang on the wall, and my clothes can hang in the closet in relative prosperity. Its a bit absurd if I think about it clearly, and yet it is comforting in an odd way to know where things are. So who or what owns what or whom? I’ll continue to pretend I am the one in control, at least I know I am the one paying the bills, but I would like to see my art be a little more grateful for its wall space, lest I decide to take the plunge and box it all up for storage and stop paying their “gallery” rent unless they are going to contribute more to my sense of home, and less to my sense of obligation.
Poetry of Departures
Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
It’s specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said
He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I’d go today,
Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo’c’sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren’t so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life