DURING TRAVEL

Between hotel check-out and arrival home

I’m at my worst

There are too many forced choices

In a moment’s notice about

Things I don’t know, unfamiliar places

El-trains, subways, buses, airport gates

Streets, choices, now, act, move

Choose now

Loss of power—their seats, refreshments, served on their timetable

Uncertainty—it’s all in your own hands

Panic, decisions, and waiting

I’m not at my best faced with all this

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CHICAGO

With Chicago’s manifold options

You can do almost everything

It is not a city—it is a world

And the world is represented in

Its population’s ethnicity

 

But it isn’t a world

Chicago is its own world

And if you lived here all your life

It would make you in the image of Chicago

 

Part of what makes Chicago, though

Is the Ethiopian cab driver

Who took us to the Lake Michigan beach

–the waves were large on the waters—

And the Jordanian cab driver who took us home

Both immigrants bringing their personalities other than Chicago home-grown

And the harmonica player with the French accent

Who grew up here with the mixed whites

And Afro-Americans who live here and

Some gave the world sounds of the blues

So there is always a fresh perspective

On the city and an opening outward

Of those few or many home-grown

But I didn’t see any Indigenous

 

I heard superb jazz in Chicago, though

Better in Westchester, PA, of all places

But the mix wasn’t good, echoes

The blues clubs in Chicago feel like shrines

Heart, community

Good blues, but not extraordinary, surprisingly

Chicago has history and lore

But not the legendary status of storied New York

I would make America’s cities:

New York, L. A., Chicago, and Boston

You could live your life in Chicago

Because it is as a world

In its manifold superb and variegated options

DETROIT, BOSTON, AND BIRMINGHAM

People are not the same wherever you go

Travel can liberate you from routine—

Places you think are your whole world

Concerns and ties that are only local

Customs you are bred into

 

Boston and Birmingham—north and south

Have deep cultures, strong accents, characteristic manners of discourse

So different one from the other

Both beautiful, both terrible

I lived in both, loved both, and assimilated

Though still a visitor in both

 

One wants roots, a homeland, connections

I am grateful for the many successive generations

Who bred and stayed, and gave Boston and Birmingham

Their cultures, their deep roots

Detroit will always be with me

Like my childhood is always with me

 

But I’m far from childhood, from Detroit

From Boston and Birmingham, for all that matter

Frost grew up in San Francisco

Moved east and grew “Yankeer and Yankeer”

Distance from nascent bonds, strictures unaware

 

I am more what I’ve struggled with

What I’ve accomplished and failed at

Than I am Detroit, Boston, or Birmingham

But Boston and Birmingham and my struggles

Liberated me from Detroit and my childhood

Into which I was bred

IF YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

To answer my question

An Indigenous teacher

Once told me

If you know who you are

You will never be lonely

I didn’t understand

 

White, I grew up

In bland, blanched suburbia

Moved to

A small, rural town

We people were the entertainment

The gravitas

Friends

Porch sitting hours

Moved to

A hip, slick, cultured, sophisticated, city of universities

America’s Athens

Loneliness, assimilation, knowledge, alienation from self

Moved to

A wealthy, beach retirement town

Boredom, self-discovery, self-recovery

Toured foreign countries

Europe and the roots of Western Civilization

Meso-America, Maya

Tropical Island

 

I am

Wherever I go

I understand

Moments that Make Us Who We Are

I remember that electric slow dance
As I do our trips together
Moments I remember that make us who we are:
Your anger when I left you while I explored Chichen-Itza
The mystic glowing lake we paddled on together that Puerto Rico night
All those airplanes landing in the midnight sky over Miami as we drove home from Key West
Looking up at the base and down from the cliff at Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump
Family, and the luxury resort at Saint Lucia
These are moments that make us who we are
Family dinners on holidays
My growing intelligence as I talk with you
The splash cymbal in the Blind Faith song our finger punctuates, listening to my iPod on the road
Sunday lunches out after I preach
Talk late at night
These are moments that make us what we are

Saint Lucia (An Epic)

Over the next 5 days I will be posting:

Saint Lucia

(An Epic)

It is an extended poem in 5 sections, about my first visit to Saint Lucia.  To make the post manageable, I will not post the whole poem at once, but will do it one section a day.  This day’s post is the departure and trip to Saint Lucia.

Saint lucia

(An Epic)

I

Departure

Home and the family farm

And the departure and the road and travel and time

Anticipation and passing time

Music and the road and a little writing

Travelling and time

And music in the truck and a little talking and a nap

Time and travelling

The overnight hotel by the airport

The swimming pool after dinner

Reclining in our room before sleeping

 

Fire in the control tower

And we waited for the plane’s push-back

Take-off delayed an hour

And boredom and anticipation

And sitting 37,000 feet above the Atlantic

And time and iPod headphones

An hour, hours, another hour

Two ours left “Time’s going fast,” Carol said

And strains of Bach’s Cello Suite #6

And a little writing

Half nodding off and nodding off

Landing, immigration, customs

A new world, tropical

Saint Lucia