Almost Home

Almost Home

 

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.

 

I hug him,

careful not to bruise,

I do not answer.

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