A poem by Daniel Tobin, faculty member of the Festival and Conference on Poetry


Yes, you think, it’s hard to be homeless
even in the interval between homes,
the one you left behind a thousand miles
where your wife remains, unweaving rooms
into boxes piled with destinations–
Bedroom, Den–and the home that waits,
you picture, like a new Ithaka, its welcome
barred by land courts, capricious gods.
Of course, you tell yourself, it won’t be long,
twenty days perhaps instead of twenty years.
Still it’s hard returning nights from the job
to this house generously loaned by a friend,
under contract itself, stripped nearly bare
but for your bags and the one remaining bed
and the spindrift left of her parents’ lives.

No, it’s not easy to walk among remnants
of a lost world, even when it’s not your own.
The antiseptic walker. The bag of shoes.
Shelves of kitsch. A jeweler’s scale. Decanters.
Blunt inlays where the furniture would rest
bearing up beneath the warm familiar weight–
like casts of the rug’s unalterable burden.
And on every wall an empty faded patch,
un-bandaged skin, where the pictures came down.
Whatever wound you harbor, with passing time,
seems less and less like Odysseus’s scar,
that genre piece his nurse knew from childhood,
and more and more like the raging whirlpool
he pilots toward whichever way he tacks.

Though maybe it’s better not to see the journey
as some insistent metaphor that surfaces
in lives that would otherwise be their own
instead of masks for the one storied life;
better to see the name of this suburban town
as an exit sign off the interstate
from which you will move on without trial
and not an allegory of your last end,
anyone’s, or gulfs stretching between stars.
Now euphony wings through the barren halls.
Pick up the phone, your beloved is calling.

“Westwood” by © 2010 by Daniel Tobin from BELATED HEAVENS, winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Poetry. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.


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