The Line
Poem by Shenan Prestwich

July 4, 2013

ā€œhomesickness that guides the lovers

from somewhere they had loved before

they knew they loved it to somewhere

they had loved before they saw itā€

-W.S. Merwin, ā€œVariation on a Themeā€


What is the line

between homesickness and lovesickness

when weā€™re homesick for other peopleā€™s lives,

when we hunger for the places in their stories,

feel the throb in our fingers that reach

for the particular dirt or over-ripe fruit thatā€™s stained their hands

or the particular wood of the bar where they once passed

    blue nights, blue notes, red hours, long successions

    of a particular tequila like an infantry march,

and the way it steadied or gave under their elbows,

or the pillow that might smell like the top of their head

did as a child, the dust and spice of them woven into cotten,

feel the sting in our eyes as we scan

around us desperately for the view they had

at their most lonely, and were in that loneliness

entirely themselves,

as if our home is in each other,

in the particulars of someone

whose coordinates and artifacts

feel like a place we left long ago

without bothering to mark it on a map

or take any pictures for a slideshow or photo album,

a place that starts out feeling like an emptiness

from before we can remember

that pulsates through the core of everything

like an aching root within a tooth

and becomes an absence that we carry with us,

one that hangs like a mosquito net over every place we go,

where the hollower it grows with every mile,

the holier it becomes?


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