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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Comfortable Place


These common streets seemed once uncommon.
These common folk were once exotic folk.
To them it is home,
has always been home--
          rarely beyond its boundaries,
          never beyond its language.
To me it was far,
farther from home than I had been;
my first time out of the Americas,
my first time in Europe;
and this was Central Europe,
Hungary, near Austria.

Here I found houses with no front door,
addresses that ran upward on one side of the street
ran strangely downward on the other.

In this common cemetery
I watched clusters of people
arrange a sea of flowers by day,
light a sea of candles by night.

Here I stumbled upon a palace
where Joseph Haydn had composed
and directed his music.

At this humble store I bought good wine
at less than the cost of coca-cola.

Here I saw headscarved old ladies on large bicycles;
walked by grassless front yards and back yards--
          filled with fruit and vegetables,
          flowers and raked earth;
met old Russian trucks loaded with sugar beets;
got passed by horse-drawn wagons of manure;
picked up fallen pecan nuts with a gypsy.

At this gate I was greeted,
felt discomfort,
gave my first kisses to a grown man's cheek.

Here, now,
for yet another visit,
in a place that will never be home,
in a place that is ever more familiar,
much is common among the once exotic.

Again I am here, but why?
They are dying;
they are dying who bind me to this place.
They are dying,
and younger bonds seem not to tie.

I came a decade ago
and found ancestor strangers buried here.
I have come again and again to visit new friends
among found relatives who live here.
When I come back once more (as I must),
I will find nothing exotic
but much that will be strange.
As I walk past familiar houses
to the familiar graves of ancestors
I will happen upon graves of friends
and find a comfortable place to mourn.

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