Well, why not me, I reasoned (no surprise to friends and loved ones,
As I have always treated my time on this spinning patch of rock
as something of a monument to the value of pragmatism)
But there were still the normal sine-wave vacillation
Between tenuous optimism and statistical grim realities,
Fanciful discussions concerning Chinese herbs and Mexican clinics
And, later still, of time frames and stock transfers,
All the while various folks attired in suits and clinic coats
Debating matters pertaining to the coda of my personal symphony
(Doing so as if yours truly wasn’t even in the room)
Until, deciding my input might be somewhat pertinent, I said
If it’s all the same to you, I would like to go home.
It was, in a sense, like getting back on an old Schwinn
(Fender dented and rubbing on the front tire just the least little bit,
The chain needing oil, grudgingly giving in to the demands of the crank)
Sitting, unused but inordinately patient, next to the barn,
The whole notion of settling back into a pace you’d forgotten,
Like dialing back a metronome from allegro to andante
Without missing a beat or flubbing a note.
What’s more, there were the sensations you’d never made time for
While under the thumb of daily deadlines and train schedules,
Greeting you like friends you hadn’t seen for twenty years
But started gabbing with as easy as slipping on old jeans:
The scent of the lilacs, overpowering but borderline mystical,
The informal yet precise ballet of the cattails and jewelweed,
The fields of cows that, even though you know it can’t be the case,
Are populated by the same Bessie and Bossie
You taunted and pelted with watermelon as a child
(I have made it a point to proffer my apologies),
The dark, pine-choked hills, formidable but accessible, even comforting.
Sometimes, when I am not paying attention,
I catch myself all but tearing up, and I say to myself (ever so softly,
As not to disturb the squirrels and the wrens)
I had almost forgotten. Christ forgive me,
I had almost forgotten.
I’d assumed—sometimes, I can be astounded at the full extent
Of my own foolishness—that she would merely take a leave of absence;
She has, after all, an alphabet full of advanced degrees,
A rainmaker’s reputation and the billable hours to match.
Columbia and Harvard Law, after all,
But she grew up down the road just a piece in Ebensburg,
So this is all part and parcel of her as well
Hard coded in her DNA for better or worse, she’ll say,
All the while shaking her head and laughing softly.
Surely you don’t want to stay here, I’ll say,
Boorishly rational in the face of everything
Which would argue to be otherwise,
You’ve read enough Forbes and Fortune;
Altoona is dead, Johnstown is dying,
And she allows that, for a time,
Coming back was the source of some misapprehension on her part,
Until it dawned on her that on those rare occasions in Mid-town Manhattan
It had occurred to her to glance skyward,
She had seen faceless tiles of windows sufficient to sheet a Great Pyramid,
And an Armageddon’s worth of angels and gargoyles in the cornices,
But she had not, even once, ever seen the stars.