Urging my brother’s car north, away from
the hot and straining airport, I will the flat land
to pass away until we ease up into the Blue Ridge
and find the place on that anxious road
where we pass suddenly into cooler, sweeter air,
the green overtakes me, and I know I am almost home.
I unfold, breathe and begin to re-commit each
swell and curve to memory, familiar landmarks,
the names of rivers, the color of light through trees.
Sometimes, these days, I get confused, though,
because they have replaced Old Highway 441
with a serious straight-through highway,
and what’s missing leaves holes
in my knowing this place, sore spots,
like bruised peaches.
At last, we turn onto the lake road, where
spring water still trickles down shaded rock
walls thick with laurel and moss.
The scent of home wells up in me.
I remember myself here, recognize
the sound of my feet on this ground,
but it seeps in to me that these are only ghosts.
There is no trace of my having lived here on this
one piece of the earth that is the ancient center of me.
Dad hears us coming and waits
down by the patient porch, waves hello
with his baseball cap, settles the dogs.
He gives me the fiercest hug his
unsteady frame allows before asking
if I’m home for good, this time.
What I know, but cannot say, is that
too much time has passed and
I’ve been so far from home
I’ve filled the holes in me with
a longing I’m afraid might be
sweeter than what is.