Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Address Book

Colorado, Illinois, Virginia, these the
predominant states in my address book,

each home a temporary stop on a journey
defined not so much by destination but place.

Home is a door that opens inward and contains
our breath, our cries, the ghosts of our passions.

Home is a stairway that climbs and descends, the 
choice of direction unknown until we arrive.

Walls, then, must be designed to protect us from the
embarrassing display of our spirits’ disarray.

Home is also a door that opens outward,
as I discovered upon learning of distance.

We step first foot outside, inhale, and are seduced
by sirens of potential in remote places.

* * *

An old red house stands vacant beside a scenic 
rural road in the hills of northern Virginia.

Two willows occupy the land beside a stream
fed by springs and winter’s residue. No doubt the

land here was once trod by soldiers; battlefields near
yield fertile grasses, in fall they turn blood-amber.

But this house stands pondering. Wisdom seeps out of 
twenty well-placed windows from which timorous ghosts

view themselves as children; aging, dying as 
must be the final way of all we witness.

You are drawn to this place. You peer inside one warped
single-pane window through sunlit dust and stillness,

the only furniture an old desk. Wide-plank floors 
creak beneath the weight of the past. Walls sigh.

* * *

Distance itself may be the first illusion. 
Now is only now and not where we are bound.

There may be a lesson: The first step is not where 
the journey of one thousand miles begins. It starts 

the moment that our fingertips touch the doorknob. 
Before its squeaky turn unlocks bolt from wood, 

before the door is pulled on lazy hinges to
look outside or in, before we exhale.

And when we next inhale, we are hurtling 
through life’s rain of lovers, grief, and redemption.

Love is a poor excuse for a travel guide 
and there are no cartographers of the human heart.

Meet me on the front porch of the red house. I will 
wait for you so we may open this door together. 

--Martin A. Bartels (working draft)

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