Monday, October 25, 2010

In The Year I Left

Author: elal

Here's one that Billy Collins wrote:

And we know the message
can be delivered from within.
The heart, no valentine,
decides to quit after lunch,
the power shut off like a switch,
or a tiny dark ship is unmoored
into the flow of the body's rivers,
the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore.
- Billy Collins
from Picnic, Lightning living and dying with eyes wide open

The poetry I write goes all over the place. I favor fiction a lot of the time. This is a young man I never was, I have never in my life been the man who takes a quest as more important than the current relationship. I have entered tasks and commitments and gambles even but never as they might involve a real journey. I know really well what a real journey is. I went on a two year plus a couple months journey that ended by taking me all the way around the world, leaving from San Francisco towards Alaska and then Japan and returning two years later from Napoli to New York. The flight across to San Jose was anticlimactic. I left with the remnants of a military obligation in place but returned with an Honorable Discharge, them being convinced any more dealings with me were useless. I made my head a psychedelic place in those days too. Even if I stayed home, any given day might turn into a wild ass trip just because. I was a college student in my twenties but carefully selected the few credits I took for their easiness fitting into the lifestyle I had.

All that college stuff ultimately came to grief in my second crash into the ground a few years after returning from overseas. These days I don't have much of a travel bug. I know too much about the hassles. I have already been there. It would take a remarkable travelling companion. The last travelling vacation, I drove all over Oregon. That was good enough for me. My poetry goes all over the place.

In The Year I Left

When I see this moon
I think of you as I last
saw you sitting still
on the verandah
watching as I strode away
down the path, going
to my fate, to who
knows where, keeping my confused
thoughts to my own self.

August 5, 2009 12:39 PM


  1. I've always gotten the most out of travelling alone. To be alone out there in the world: I remember the cold docks in Korea where even the boats seemed frozen, the birds on the line in a small town in Northern Thailand, the train in Taiwan and blubber on pork, a hill in the Caribbean and stars I could lay to my tongue. Each time I am shocked that I was able to go. And then more recently, a trip to the States, sleeping in my car, handling Chicago's road system, walking backwards in a marathon. I don't know what it all means, but somehow it seems to mean more when I am alone and yet I am not alone in life, don't wish to be.

    What does that mean?

    Once I went to the moon. And now my travel magic is on earth.


  2. Erin, I agree with you on travelling alone. I have done my last two car trips alone, travelling around the state, going at my own pace, stopping when I want.

  3. I love this one, Christopher. The Billy Collins is especially meaningful to me today, as my husband just had a heart catherization and stent. We had been told his problem was in an area of the heart called "the widowmaker." I've been beside myself, knowing that his heart could stop with any last breath. Thanks be to God the doctors were able to take care of the problem, and we may have bought a few more years.

    Grateful for every heartbeat.

  4. Getting older is just not for sissies. I ran into the Billy Collins quite by accident, but someone else had just raved on about
    Billy, maybe you. Someone else else posted another poet equally loved and we were talking poets, so it was right to put him up and now you see it in special light. Amen.

    I have a stent too but it was placed in the lower right artery and I don't think they call that the widowmaker. My trouble was just enough to give me mild but definite heart pain. As heart attacks go it wasn't much but they treated it totally serious. They tell me I have another much smaller vein that could give me some trouble, but I have felt nothing for over a year except perhaps some of the exhaustion I feel. Just the other day I had a twinge I would call heart but it went away and nothing since. I have an open prescription for nitro as they expect me to have those. I let the nitro they sent me home with go stale, and I will go renew if I ever need it.

    I got a dogtag to wear that states I am a diabetic heart patient with allergies and lists the allergies. But this is very nearly false advertising because I am on the verge of diabetes and also sort of on the verge of heart trouble.

    I just hope when my time comes I don't linger. I hate the thought of that. I am already willing to lose the more aggravating parts of my life, getting more and more ready to go. That's a good thing. It is really silly to try to hold on to this thing...all the saints say so, just let this thing slide easily out of my hands when it's time...not early necessarily, though sometimes when I relive my own painful foolishness for the ten thousandth time I feel quite ready right now. My own shortcomings are so effing tedious.

  5. The poem fits. The feeling expressed are similar for many of the goodbyes made along the way, especially the confused thoughts. The come every time.

  6. In the year you left

    You thought you kept them hidden,
    those confused thoughts of yours,
    as you tried to walk dignified
    out of my life and away
    down the street. You tuned out

    my bitter laugh as I read through
    your bluster to see
    you so flustered. I knew then
    just how well my game had worked,
    how clearly I had won
    the final prize of my own
    dry, empty heart.

    Come back, I thought,
    but the chance for tenderness
    had passed, and now
    my hand lay still, the chill
    creeping slowly across its palm.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

Get Your Own Visitor Map!