Home Sick

The other day at the doctor’s office, the nurse

sized me up, professionally: You can’t be fifty!

She meant I looked much younger.   I put up

a good front, you see. Maybe a poem shouldn’t

begin this way, but reading Jaroslav Seifert’s poetry,

in translation, makes me feel it’s fine to begin

a poem, shove it from the nest, and watch how

it falls. Anyway, I think I knew, for only a moment,

what a shy, country girl might feel if a famous

producer proclaimed her tomorrow’s Hollywood star

and imagined, briefly, another life far from home.


So I examined my life with all its essays to grade,

old trucks to keep running, pop songs to love, gadgets

to purchase, politicians to protect myself from,

promotions to earn or keep, and I was frightened—

like a dog with screwed up olfactory glands must be

when it discovers a skunk has sneaked upon it

beneath porch light—to understand I, middle-aged,

am not nostalgic. Where is my green meadow,

quiet river, and kingfisher? Where a generous gesture

in spring shade?   Where the memory of book

or bouquet in innocent hand?   I cannot remember

a time when some parent was not displeased

or at death’s door, some coach not yelling, grim

officials not explaining rules, presidents not trading

truth for lies, girlfriends not wishing for bracelets

or rings of brighter gold. I know no illusions

of charm in times past. No sweet chuck of candy

clings to folds of memory to be sucked again, slowly,

when I am bored on the pew of present circumstance.

No melons cool in the spring of years to be sliced

open, rich and firm, upon the hard table of my heritage.

My homesickness is no disease of loss or regret


cured into vain wishing. What cravings do I have

for gluttonous fantasies of a misspent youth?

Always there was too much, too much pop corn,

too many celebrities, too many theme parks, too many

angered games of Scrabble, Monopoly, and Risk.

So I felt the nurse would surely place her hand

on my leg, and request I undress.   I studied

her eyes for a kind of certainty, then the ham

of her thigh, the suggestion of moist lips, then

the upturned hint of her snout. Is this what

we become nostalgic for, the incandescent

moment given free, the ample gifts of benevolent


chance? There was nothing I wished for there,

sitting on crinkly rolled paper, the fat fingers

of opportunity taking my pulse, except for things

I do on my way to where time goes unrepeated.

So I can accept this, accept there is no perfect past

to return to calmly, accept there is no present stasis

to defer tomorrow’s dangers to, accept, in searching,

in working, that continuous intensity faced forward

will symptom old pathologies into fresh disease,

accept that home, that mobile construction,

that inward carapace, is without past or destiny.


from As Long As We Need (Dalton Publishing)

To read my thought about writing this poem, follow this link.


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About lymangrant

Lyman Grant is a professor of creative writing and humanities at Austin Community College. He has work at ACC since 1978. He is the author or editor of two textbooks, two books relating to Texas literature, three volumes and a chapbook of poetry. Recently he traveled the United States for a year in a 34-foot RV 5th wheel trailer with his wife and two younger sons.