It’s Good to be Homesick (A Poem)

 

By Marc Gilson

This poem was inspired by many people I’ve encountered over the last few years; clients, family, friends, friends of friends. They come from all walks of life. What they have in common is that they are travelers. Collectively, they have visited Antarctica, Sydney, Paris, Puerto Rico, New Orleans, New York, Bombay, London, Dubai, Tokyo, Moscow, Cairo, Havana, and Shanghai. To the denizens of these places, there is nothing particularly exotic or unusual about them. To them, these places are just “home.”

But to visitors from the elsewhere, each of these locations (and thousands more) can present truly alien experiences – experiences both challenging and transforming. It’s been said that no one can claim to know the way the world works without travelling (thereby exposing oneself to) the world. The value of travel cannot be overemphasized. But the real value of it is not to simply see the sights, but to shift us out of our social blind spots, our cultural narcissism, our comfort zones.

It can be argued that only via travel can we really confront ourselves. Or, as the accomplished traveler, philosopher, and author of “The Art of Travel” Alain de Botton said, “It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are….If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if c0466f2190bf01289c6d4d58c2cef11ewe are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.”

With that, and in that spirit, this little piece is dedicated to the travelers. (Special thanks to Bernadine Joy, an experienced traveler herself, who helped immensely with the composition of this piece.)

 

It’s Good to be Homesick

It’s good to be homesick

To be cut off

From what defines you

To have the TV channels and hours change

To see the agate moon earlier or later than expected

To lose touch

And be humbled by differences

 

It’s good to sever connections

To home and familiar haunts

To reach out and touch the unexpected

To confront kind and callous faces

To digest rich, unusual food

To inhale sweet and pungent aromas

And hear barking, foreign voices

 

It’s good to not know the meaning

Of signs and gestures

And to know uncertainty with certainty

And to wonder from where might come

A meal, somewhere to sleep, and a place to piss

And to not be quite sure

What The Plan Is

 

It’s good to be homesick

To lose one’s footing

Tripped up by otherness; tipped and twisted

To have notions of “what should be”

swept off the chessboard

To lose track of one’s baggage

And barter for your clothes

1

 

It’s good to be disoriented and

watch the compass spin and

be violently nauseous

and unready for the

changes that befall you when you know they’re

coming but are still caught totally

Unprepared

 

It’s good to recalibrate one’s place

And adjust and accommodate

And guess at the flow, and go with that flow

To and through the unexpected –

The unanticipated; gambled and clouded

Complicated and mysterious, strenuous and perfect

A moment-by-moment, fly-by-wire existence

 

It’s good to be homesick

And to complete the circuitous journey

To find your balance and, somehow, a way back

Through chilled darkness, thorny heat, and livid storms

To where you began and still belong

Whether into welcoming, warm arms or a cool, empty bed

A drawn full circle; a known and knowing place

 

It’s good to be homesick

So as to acutely sense what was supposed

And yet removed

To discover again the common things of our waking and our sleep

To settle back in gently, and rasp like a baby on our pillow through the night

To come back to ourselves, our knownness, all that and more,

once more, and again, to finally catch our breath

 

It’s good to be homesick

So as to center,

To settle and reconcile

Our itinerant debt

So as to cure the sickness of our many miles

It’s good to be homesick

So as to come home

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12traveling

 

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