No Place Like Home


Pounding like a

pushed too-far heartbeat

Each careful syllable

of the word California

paused like slow-motion in my mind

Because I was a small town girl

with no knowledge of highways that stretch

across the length of a state

And I didn’t understand that a backyard of 

chard grass could drink of a brief 

season of rain 

and resurrect green

before dying, again 

Inviting a restless hope

that it would soon snow

and we’d wake up with 

tears in our eyes

Grateful that mother nature

came through

I was scared because I didn’t know

what home could feel like

________

I didn’t know I’d love California,

that I’d never tire of the mountain 

that hovered over our town like a guardian

It was a silly thing, but I pretended we were family

When the craggy slope swelled in the distance,

always painted with snow,

I saw it and knew I was home 

________

I couldn’t have known—

Because I was a small thinker

and my ideas of this place were

packed into tiny preconceived notions

from television and movies

California was where the stars lived

and no one had told me that the Golden State

had golden hills

bursting with crimson poppies

And no one said, “If you move here,

You’ll never want to live another place.” 

Naivety brought me

but the truth 

became like an anchor

Stretching from my heart

into the rich valley soil

that brought life to every seed

planted there

I was that seed

and I never wanted to leave

___

Today a little voice at my side asked

why we left,

if we were so happy,

why did I pack all of our belongings

into the back of a Uhaul

Let it rumble in the driveway

as I planted myself in the backyard,

snapping pictures of my favorite rosebush

that always smelled like 

a delicious perfume my favorite

Grandma wore when I was little

and she held me against her heart

Even then I knew I had things to do—

Places to be

and I unraveled myself from comfort

to believe for more

More than what? 

I now wonder

But I don’t say it out loud

“We left because we couldn’t stay,” 

I say,

and the only hope I feel

is that one day it will 

make sense 

_______

I went home last year

but only to visit,

To stand on the 

vast expanse

of shoreline and marvel 

at the majesty

of something much bigger than me

And I felt a blanket

drape across my shoulders

Comfort sink into my bones

The gentle wash of static waves

pulling me deeper

into their icy hold

and I cried because

I forgot

how right it feels

to be where you’re supposed to be

To feel that much peace

But when you’re lower-class

America

You don’t choose these things

You follow security 

and tell yourself that thirty years from now,

maybe you’ll find yourself on this same shoreline

whispering to the waves,

“Thanks for waiting.” 

________

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