Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

A wanderer's dispatches on life, love and the human condition

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Sunset Surf

I sat on top of the sea tonight as
the last light left the sky
and made my wishes to the universe:
A house with an ocean view
and a bathtub big enough for two;
and someone to share it with who is crazy
in the same way as me and, like me,
just wants to surf, love and be loved.
How to describe what it feels like
when you’re falling down the face
of liquid, but landing on something
more sure than the earth. The sea makes
sense to me. I am far clumsier on land,
my body out of sync with terra firma,
too soft and heavy to find surefootedness
on solid ground. But in water, I find
grace, acceptance for all the things
I can’t accept in myself.
The quiet lap of water around my legs;
The distant rocks at cliff’s edge laid out
against orange sky in a most
unbelievable way, one seagull etched
against the horizon as if painted there
by the world’s most obvious landscape
artist. This is my church. This is what
I believe in. This is why I wake up
every day in a mostly empty bed,
and carry my tired body out the door
and down the ocean road, rattling along
from pothole to pothole past fragrant
euchalyptus and spring’s colorwheel
of wildflowers, to the end of dry land
where the ocean claims the sand,
to the one place where I feel safe,
whole, with even the broken parts
of me if only for a short time put
together exactly where they should be.

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Gidget grows up, sans Hollywood ending

It’s been a rainy week here in the Algarve, and yesterday I watched “Gidget,” a classic Hollywood surf film about a tomboy who tries to fit in with the lads–and get the attention of the one she fancies–by learning how to surf.

Once I got past the film’s marvelous chauvinism, I realized I could really get behind a film in which a girl would rather surf than go on dates or preen on the beach in the hopes of getting the attention of the surfer dudes, which is the reason she was attracted to the sport in the first place.

Of course, Gidget eventually does get her man by impressing him with her ability to “shoot the curl” and making him jealous by pretending to hook up with the older and self-proclaimed “surf bum” in the film, who in the end decides it’s the right thing to do to give up his aimless life of surfing to take a job with an airline–as you do.

If you think it must have been a dark or incredibly boring day for me to spend 90 minutes of my life I will never get back on “Gidget,” consider that it is now three years since I left my job, my family and my professional life in the United States to take up surfing at the age of 36, and that the theme of the film–shrouded as it is by Hollywood drivel–did resonate quite a bit with me.

Two and a half weeks ago I had a birthday, and at a dinner BBQ with 15 of my lovely friends–many of them expatriates like me–at my new rented casita in Montinhos da Luz, I took a few minutes to muse about my strange and wonderful life. Watching two gal pals in my kitchen giggle over a collection of mugs from nearby beach Praia da Arrifana’s annual summer sardine festival–one of which features a shape not unlike human male genitalia–I realized that in the book of life status quo, I am a bit of a freak.

I’ve lived here long enough to realize that Europeans, Australians or Kiwis wouldn’t really blink an eye if someone decided to step off the treadmill of a predictable life, even in her late 30s, to move somewhere else and take up an extremely difficult sport that has since become a passionate obsession, but for Americans it is frankly quite weird. Especially if that woman was raised in a very traditional Sicilian-Italian-American household of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and was more of an intellectual nerd than a particularly good athlete to begin with!

When I mentioned this to my friends, one of them–who was a bit drunk but still quite sincere–said to me, “You’re a super-cool chick, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.”

This is a nice sentiment, of course, but the fact is lots of people like to tell me different, especially those voices of self-doubt in my head. And let’s face it, I’m not really a chick any longer. Unlike 17-year-old Gidget, who had her whole life ahead of her to grow up, get a job, find a mate, have children and experience love, loss, joy, heartache and all of these beautiful and terrible things we feel as human beings, I am almost halfway through mine.

And while I’ve had jobs and adventures, traveled a bit, and experienced love, loss and heartache more times than I care to mention, there are two things most humans do that I have yet to accomplish–find a life mate and have children, the latter of which i think will probably not happen for me.

To be single at this age is of course not so strange. I know a lot of single people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, though I know few who haven’t had a child or two along the way and just didn’t end up staying with the person with whom they started a family. And while I don’t think everyone needs to have children, and I don’t have a burning desire even now at this age when the ticking clock is about to self-destruct, I sometimes feel out of the parenting club many of my friends are in.

This all troubles me sometimes, to be sure, especially days like yesterday that I spent mostly by myself (with the company of two very loving cats) after receiving a phone call asking for help from my latest ex-boyfriend. He called to ask me for help for him and his son due to terrible fighting he’s having with his current lover, the unstable woman he dated just before me and to whom he returned immediately after we split.

In the end, he did not need my help, which is just as well because what I preferred to do–and did–was give him an earful about taking responsibility for his life and growing up now that he is 42 years old, and telling him to call me again only after he’s given this notion some thought.

And while I am always happier to be alone than in bad company, his call resonated with me, and the whole day after I thought about the mistakes we humans continue to make over and over again (me included). Things like keeping jobs or staying in relationships that don’t make us happy, not appreciating and having gratitude for the things and people we have when we have them and then regretting it after they’re gone–and how we might change them somehow the next time a similar situation arises for a more satisfying result.

I thought about the choices I’ve made that have led me to this place in my life, which I can only assume I have reached because it is what I want (although sometimes my lonely and uncertain heart tells me differently). I experienced a range of emotions as the rain drummed steadily outside, my cats slept and purred peacefully beside me and Gidget frolicked merrily and mercurially on my MacBook Pro screen.

On the other side of the equation, I thought about all the things I have dared to do that very few American women brought up in my situation would dare to do–leave New York City and a decent job, a group of friends, my family and the omnipresent stuff with which we clutter our lives–to live a simpler life in a quiet but uncommonly beautiful corner of the world and chase a passion for riding ocean waves that I could never imagine as a child who spent summers at the beach in Ocean City, N.J., afraid to swim out of her depth.

Sometimes I look at myself through a very critical lens and think what a ridiculous joke it is for someone my age, with my body type (curvaceous that could easily be fat if I didn’t exercise, especially now that I’m in middle age) to spend a good chunk of her time surfing–a sport that is one of the most physically demanding of any and to which young and extremely fit people are much better suited.

Then again, that is exactly what I love about surfing–you don’t have to go out in 20-foot waves or rip on a shortboard to love it and gain the physical and psychological benefits of the exercise, as well as the feeling and perspective of being in the ocean, the world’s purest and most plentiful natural element, almost every day of your life.

You can catch one wave a session, ride it unsteadily at best and still feel absolute and complete joy–that rare feeling that all is right with the world and that nothing could ever be wrong again–along with a fierce need to paddle right back out and feel it again.

You can receive encouragement and smiles from men and women younger, fitter and better looking–people who–when I was a fat insecure adolescent surely would not have had time for me–just because you all share a common passion, and they can see it on your face.

For me this feeling of belonging is something this formerly awkward child and teenager has more now than I’ve ever had before, even if my life isn’t as hopeful or promising as their young lives may be, even if I don’t ever accomplish some of the things they may accomplish along the way.

It also makes you realize that they, just like you, are human with the same hopes, desires, dreams, fears and worries just like you, even if on the surface things appear shinier and brighter for them. If surfing has done anything else it has humbled me–in the ocean, as it should be on land, we are all in this together.

Maybe I haven’t gotten the guy (yet), like Gidget–and maybe I am not young and beautiful and daring with a long life still ahead of me. But for the most part–despite the occasional loneliness, worry and regret that is a normal part of the human condition, but on which I try not to dwell–I am happy, even if I don’t have all of the things I “want” or think I should have at this age, even if most of the time I am not “acting my age” or even close to it, even if my life so far has not exactly gone according to script. And isn’t this the most any of us can strive for in this life?

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This is what I see when I look out the back window of my new (old) house

I’ve found a more or less “permanent” place to live in Lagos, Portugal, living a life full of used and borrowed things.

From my terrace of my borrowed house I can see the ocean, the sun, the moon and the stars. I drank coffee there the other morning and mused about how well things have turned out for me.

I have lived here five weeks now and I have friends, a used car, a used surfboard, a little house in a great neighborhood with a roof terrace with a view of the sea, and possibly even a dog.

The person renting the house, a guy called L, lives in Ireland; the owner perhaps too, or perhaps he’s here. L isn’t sure. It’s also L’s dog that may soon be mine, but that is a whole other story for which I don’t have time at the moment.

I’m paying L to be here and sleeping in a room full of his stuff until his Hungarian friend K moves to Lisbon next week. She is a nice girl very similar to me – arty, similar clothes, a Libra, takes photos – but nine years my junior and as pale as I am olive.

K is freshly mourning the loss of a relationship and nervous to move to a city after three and a half years in this little town, a situation I myself was in three and a half years ago before I moved to New York City. So I sympathize with her, and so far we are getting along just fine.

L is a friend of D’s, my friend whose house I stayed in for a month before moving here to Lagos. As I’ve mentioned before, D is the ex-wife of a man whose surf camp visited the first time I ever came to Portugal, which was also when I decided that someday I would live here.

But I didn’t meet L through D, nor vice versa. I met L through a former friend of mine named Aibhinn who lived in New York but was from Dublin and at one point dated L’s best friend, a guy called Brian, who died not long before I met L for the first time last November.

This is how things go here in this small worth of expatriates in the Algarve. The connections between us no longer surprise me. In fact, I am sure they will start to stack up in undesirable ways.

This town, Lagos, confuses me. It is just that — merely, a town — but always I get lost. I navigated my way around New York City for more than three years before I moved here and yet I still have trouble getting somewhere the same way twice.

I have walked alone through dozens of European cities without knowing the language, armed with only a map and my wits. Yet this little Algarve-ian village puzzles me. I’m, quite frankly, ashamed of my pathetic navigational skills.

But no matter; I’m sure I will learn my way around soon enough. And I am happy to be here, with several beautiful beaches to which I have already spent several mornings jogging, very close by.

It is strange to be so out of my element and my previous life in New York, but I try not to give that too much thought. My daily visits to the sea and preoccupation with logistical matters are keeping me busy enough that I try not to worry about when this life will feel like mine.

Until then, this borrowed one will have to do.


In a Portuguese minute…

Life here has been a flurry of transactions lately, each one of them — this being southern Portugal — as surreal and time-consuming as the next. But now I’ve sorted myself out with a car, car insurance, a surfboard and a rack for it on top of my car, and it’s starting to feel like home here. All I need is an apartment to rent by the end of the month and I’ll be fully set up.

I’m not sure exactly where to begin about what’s happened since I arrived here a week and a half ago, trading New York for the southwest Algarve — two completely polar opposites if there ever were any. Strangely enough, though most wouldn’t think so, life moves almost as fast here — sometimes faster — than it does in New York. I awaken each new day filled with expectation about what the day can bring, and am constantly surprised about how much can happen, even if sometimes it seems to be happening in slow motion.

That said, there were a lot of changes I had to deal with when I arrived, and I didn’t take to some of them so easily. Things have sorted themselves out more or less now, but transitions for me have always been a little rough. (As I have lived a life in a constant state of willful transition, I believe I am a glutton for punishment if there ever was one.) I think I’ve finally eased into it, though, and am starting to accept what is now, and move forward from there.

The last couple of days I’ve been surfing, now that I finally have a board. Although I’m not sure you could call what I did yesterday surfing — I pretty much got drilled by a huge wave that was breaking too close to shore not a half-hour after I went in the water, and that was that.

It happened like this: I misjudged where the wave would break and instead of breaking first and pushing me forward with whitewater, the wave broke pretty much on top of me at such a steep angle that it drove me and the board headfirst into the sea floor. I landed hard on my face, crushing my nose and mouth and wrenching my neck; in retrospect I’m quite lucky I didn’t sustain more damage than the fat lip and scratches on my face I’m sporting now. Good times.

Today was a much better day in the ocean, I’m happy to report. I started off the day with a long hike in the morning sun, quite sore as I was from yesterday’s thrashing. But the break at Burgau, the beach mere steps from the house I’m staying in, was working with small but fun waves, and R and a traveling Aussie surfer M — who has been hanging out with my friend crowd here for the past few weeks — were in the water. Instead of working on some marketing for her business like we were supposed to, D and I decided to join them.

At first I went in the water alone to the far left of where R, M and a few others were surfing — shy, as usual, about going where everyone us for fear my novice self would get in the way. I was also feeling wobbly and sore from my mishap yesterday, but was determined to at least get in for awhile so I didn’t lose my nerve to keep at it.

I paddled around for a bit but then R came over to get me — he told me I’d likely be thrashed into the ground again if I stayed where I was, and graciously paddled out to the back with me, showing me how to maneuver my longboard under waves as we paddled out. (Basically, you turn the board over and go under it, letting the wave break over you, then pop up after it passes and get back on the board to keep paddling.)

I was grateful for the help, and both R and M gave me friendly advice about how to catch waves and where I should sit and wait for them. Thanks to their help, I managed to sit out in the back and watch the better surfers catch wave after wave for awhile. It was a warm day and the sun was out, so it was really quite lovely just to be out there with my friends enjoying the ocean, and to remember again why I love surfing so much (even if I am still just learning).

I caught two waves of my own, but completely wiped out without even standing up on the first, and rode the second mostly on my belly. Still, it built up my confidence, and now I’m feeling better about going out on a small-wave day and sitting in the back with the others, even if I don’t catch anything.

It’s thanks to the third of my recent transactions I am now equipped to surf. Thanks to the first, I became the proud owner of a black 1997 Fiat Punto. The transaction was done nearly entirely in Portuguese, as the owner of the car didn’t speak English. Most of it I handled myself and, wonder of wonders, most of my friends agree I got a really good deal for a used car in Portugal (apparently they can be quite expensive and quite crap at the same time). I paid 900 euros for it and it runs pretty well and was spotless when I bought it (it’s since picked up some dirt and crumbs, the former from my driving around the countryside on back roads and the latter from a sandwich I ate in it the other day).

Getting the car was easy enough, give or take a hiccup. When you buy a car here you and the previous owner have to go to some official Portuguese office (don’t ask me to tell you the name of it or find my way back to the one we went to in Lagos) and fill out paperwork to transfer the title and registration of the car over to the new owner. The first time we tried to do that, there was some discrepancy between the car’s current title and the new paperwork, so we had to go back a second time before that could be completed. All of this as I said was done in Portuguese or miming, so it was quite a little adventure.

I drove the car for a couple of days without having insurance, which is much cheaper here than it is in the states — I’m paying 250 euros for a year instead of the $1200 I’d be paying in the U.S. I asked around trying to figure out how to get it, and was all set to randomly go into an insurance company or bank (some of them do insurance as well) to get it. But then I looked at a studio apartment a woman is renting nearby and happened to ask her if she knew of an insurance agent, and lo and behold, the next day she had hers coming round to her house to sign her sister up for insurance.

So the day after I looked at her apartment (I think I may take it — it’s 300 euros a month with electricity, water, gas and Internet included, and isn’t far from where I am now), I went back over to meet with the insurance agent. Of course, that transaction took more than two hours (just like pretty much anything official you do around here), and the insurance agent (a 50-ish Portuguese man named Antonio) and I got into a few tiffs here and there. But now I’m a legal owner and driver of a car in Portugal, so I’m pretty pleased with how it all worked out.

One of the things I really love about the Portuguese is how easy it is to argue with them and not have them take it too seriously. My passionate Italian nature lines up nicely with this quality. If you get upset about something, it’s quite easy to raise your voice and sound very agitated with a Portuguese person, and have them do the same back, and then end the argument very quickly in a very friendly way without any offense taken by either party. I dig that.

The point Antonio and I argued most over is some Portuguese insurance clause that considers how long a person has had a license to drive to decide how expensive their insurance should be. Now that in and of itself isn’t strange — I’m pretty sure it’s that way in the states as well.

The problem we ran into is this: Because I am driving on an American driver’s license that was issued only last year in the state of Pennsylvania (I had to get it there so I could go to the Italian consulate in Philadelphia to get my Italian passport), in Portuguese terms I have only been driving for one year. That’s totally not true, of course — I’ve been driving for 22 years. But this is not something you could explain to the Portuguese insurance people. They are sticklers for paperwork around here to an absolutely ridiculous degree, and if my license says it was issued in June 2009, well then by god to them, that’s the very first time I ever had a license.

So now I’m supposed to be contacting the DMV in Pennsylvania to get some kind of record proving I’ve had a license since 1987, not 2009. (I got my license in that state when I was 16 years old.) I’m pretty sure the Portuguese don’t quite understand what a royal pain in the arse doing that is going to be for me. But for all their love of paperwork, the Portuguese themselves aren’t really in a hurry to get things done generally, so I’m certainly not going to rush acquiring proof of my driving experience.

All in all, I’m quite delighted and mostly amused by how things work around here, and am generally pretty happy with my new life. There are some things I hope get sorted out, both personally and logistically, but I’m trying to be patient and be happy and proud that I’ve gotten myself this far.

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Portugal nights


Originally uploaded by michael…campbell

One of the traveling surf crew my friends in Portugal have been hanging around snapped this photo a little more than a week ago in Sagres. Sagres is the southwestern-most point of continental Europe and is a fun little town in which we all hang out quite a bit.

I’m not sure what time in the morning it was but at some point we all went outside the bar, Pau de Pita, and were drinking on the benches like we were in high school or something.

This is me and my American/English dual citizen friend R mugging for the camera, with D on the other side of him and French surfer and traveler S on the left. (S, himself a chilled-out, gentle soul, is a bit shy about having his photo taken.) It was quite a fun night, and I’m sure there will be many more to come…

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My new home…finally!

It took me more than a year to make this happen but I’m finally living in southwest Portugal full time — at least for the foreseeable future. I’m currently staying with my friend D, living in a mini-apartment above her house in Burgau, on the south coast, for the month of February in exchange for doing some work for her.

This is a view of my balcony on a sunny day — which there haven’t been that many of since I’ve been here (damned La Nina year; February is not usually this wet!).

I’ve been here more than a week now and have been busy trying to get my life going. I’ve also been working a lot, both for D and also an every-day freelance gig for Informationweek writing stories about government and technology.

But so far I’m off to a good start — I bought a used Fiat Punto yesterday, and I looked at an apartment for rent nearby today and am looking at two more tomorrow. I have a lead on a job for the upcoming holiday season here, and I already have some friends who make life here fun. I’m trying to be patient and know everything will eventually fall into place.

I’ll be posting more as things progress. Until then, enjoy my new view of the world…I certainly do.

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“One Lexington, Two Cities”

Several years ago someone broke my heart into a million pieces. I’m not exaggerating — I think I am still trying to locate some of the fragments that exploded in every direction. (Some of them remain lost to this day.) The end of that relationship sent me into a deep depression the likes of which I hope never to feel again.

But as these things go, I eventually got over it, and I know he wasn’t entirely at fault. Yes, he did some terrible things to me. Yes, he lied and treated me poorly and all around did me wrong.

But as we are all ultimately responsible for our own feelings, I didn’t have to fall apart so badly when all was said and done. I did, though, for a lot of reasons. There were other losses in my life at the time — the deaths of my mother and my ex-boyfriend, the latter still my most significant intimate relationship, book-ended the time in which I knew the man who broke my heart.

At the time I was in love with love (I still am, I think, a little bit), and set my expectations so high for this man and our relationship that there was no way either could ever have met them. I realized I was as much to blame for what happened as he was, and after a time I stopped feeling sick to my stomach when I thought of him. I stopped blaming him for my own inability to make a relationship work. I felt no more ill will toward him and in my heart wished him happiness.

So time passed — two and half years, to be exact — and except for some emails and text messages, we did not speak.

I had other romantic entanglements — skirmishes, I like to call them — but no one ever really affected me the way he did again. Or maybe I just wouldn’t let anyone affect me, so protective I was of the sanity I worked so hard to reassemble during that time. Except for one person last spring, who in too many ways reminded me of him, i didn’t meet anyone I wanted to have a relationship with, not really.

One morning in late October in Portugal, as I was hurrying to catch a bus from Aljezur to Lisbon so that from there I could catch a flight to Morocco, I got an email from this man, J. By now we were Facebook friends, and a couple of weeks earlier he’d wished me a happy birthday. I’d emailed back, and it was his response to that I read just before dashing out of my little house to catch my ride to the bus station.

He asked me for a poem, a love poem to be exact, for a piece he was to cast in bronze for a show that asked artists to combine text and visual art to create “books” of love. The sculpture itself would be a book, and my words would be typecast into it.

I was a little hungover from drinking too much wine the night before, so didn’t think too hard about the e-mail beyond being excited at the notion of collaborating on an art project. Even during our worst times, we shared the same aesthetic, and were a good team creatively.

So I sent him quite a dramatic poem about love and longing and distance that I’d written about him about seven or eight months since the last time we physically spoke, which incidentally was the conversation that more or less ended our intimate connection with each other. It was pretty emotionally raw stuff. There were direct references to our time together, and where he lives (which was never where I lived), and events that took place during our relationship.

The photo at the top of the page is the work of art that came out of our collaboration. It’s called “One Lexington, Two Cities” after the poem’s title, and it is now appearing in the show The Art of the Artist’s Book that opened last Friday at the Oakland University Art Gallery in Detroit.

In some ways, it’s a miracle this piece was ever cast. Emotionally, this person and I (and I hope if he reads this he will agree) went pretty deeply with each other; I am not sure if I would dare to ever go that deep again with someone. We knew each other pretty well, even the darkest parts of ourselves, the parts that I’m pretty sure now that we should never show anyone. Some things should be kept secret, I think.

There was a time I thought I would never get over our relationship and how I felt about him. Of course I did, and now I am glad we are in touch, even though we still have not actually spoken to each other — only through e-mail, text message and now art have we communicated.

I feel as if this work of art was a gift. So bereft I was at one point about the end of our connection that I doubted it was even real. I doubted that this person had ever cared for me at all, and I thought I had somehow created in our head this connection between us. At one point I even feared I was delusional and had made the whole thing up

Somehow collaborating on this piece set right any lingering misgivings I had about our relationship. Even before he asked me to work together, I had pretty much come to terms about why it didn’t work out, and I sincerely did not have any bad feelings toward him nor did I want to be with him anymore.

So it surprised me how much it meant to collaborate, and when I saw photos of the finished piece, I was thrilled. I felt validated in a way I never had before. And best of all, I felt free — free from any lingering doubt about my own ability to judge the feelings that exist between two people.

In 11 days I will leave New York, possibly for good, to start a new life abroad. I’m really looking forward to it, and I feel that finally I have learned to trust myself, to be who I really am without shame or remorse, and to be proud to wear my heart on my sleeve, no matter how painful it can sometimes be.

And while I’ve been flirting with the door to this new place of self-confidence for some time, this collaboration more than anything else helped me turn the knob and cross the threshold.

So thank you, J, for this gift. Thank you for respecting me enough as an artist to ask me to collaborate. Thank you for respecting me enough as a person to let me share my deeply personal work with you — something that I know could not have been easy for you to read.

Finally, thank for giving me the experience that allowed me to write these words, the ones that are cast on your beautiful work of art.

One Lexington, Two Cities

Tonight the hair on the back of a man’s neck
drives me to deep longing in a city that
never lies nor easily gives up its
borders . I am alone these long nights
it’s just turned winter, the season’s first snow
a sign of things to come. Long
months since I’ve held someone close
the way I held you, since we put our foreheads
together in the shower and something moved
between the thin skin separating our gray matters.
Oh, what you did to me that day, that hotel in
St. Charles, Missouri, things the river outside could carry
for miles if its ancient tongue could wag.
A dog that river is and dogs were were—
it’s been seven months and still can’t shake it,
you haunting me in same defiant dreams:
I beg, travel long miles over dark land and waters,
get the same story from you every time.
Go away, now. It will never work.

There was a time I thought it could.
Now I inhabit a new concrete world,
me without you. Only meant to be an experiment,
this big city, but has turned, surprisingly, into something
that looks like life. Pity me, pity the four
seasons that change and limp along gasping for air
amid exhaust and vermin. Back now again to winter,
the trees that are scantily clad even
in the best of times now bare, the dark
slush of morning snow chill my feet in twilight.
These are not the days of true love,
not even the days of like, and certainly not
the days of intimacy–your big hands encircling my waist
as I wash dishes, the way you shift gears, know
the history and country of people who
sing your favorite songs. I would give it all up
for another week–no, another day alone with you,
however and wherever you want me, your mind, mouth
and thick fingers mapping your beloved
Red River across my body.

We’re an old story, true. Lamenting you is
a habit I thought I lost but forgive me,
it was a day full of reminders lighting
like flies on decay–the poet in Brooklyn
told tales of the state where you live,
where I have traversed with you, your captive.
When stripping tobacco leaves came up
I thought of that day in the cold with your tall father,
his patient hands showing me how to pull leaves,
grade them into piles according to desire.
I worked beside poor Junebug
looking for the green that would make us all sick,
wanted your father briefly that day, a comfort
knowing it meant I would also want you
when you are old. I thought I would get that chance,
beside you old on some piece of that tobacco farm,
ghosts of ancestors wandering through walls
as we slept in our ancient bliss.

But you are long gone now, my lost Kentucky home.
Somehow today these memories–
visions of those windswept hills, farmhouses
and barns rolling far out to the horizon–
don’t drive me to tears. Today I am
grateful for having loved you, even
for a short time; for having sat in the warm
Kentucky sun holding a coffee cup, a beagle in my lap;
for miles on an old, tired bicycle, those lazy
country roads with you, my love,
beside me. I am grateful for horses against cerulean
and last bonfire sky of day; for falling-down milksheds,
their cows out to pasture; for slipping snow
at Red River Gorge and soil of an uncommonly
warm February marking territory on new shoes.

All of these live somewhere inside of me,
are turning from painful to fond. Been told
time would do this, turn you into a poltergeist
nuisance that can do no real harm, not anymore,
no more than noise can travel through mountains
and make new history between us, give me
back what I lost. About time you haunted me proper,
reminded me of love I was lucky enough to find,
not foolish enough to have lost. Now
rattle me to sleep, you old and tired memory.
I will carry the earth under your feet as my skin,
keep you alive somewhere in bones
where my past lies dormant like cancer,
silent, waiting for its chance to surface.