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Posts Tagged ‘spirit of place’

This is a date I never forget.

I went to Kent State University, several years after May 4. Kent was my home for 19 years, from 1981 to 2000. If there was a person who belonged to Kent, I did, not as much as the fac brats and natives, but close.

I belonged to Kent and Kent belonged to me.

Kent’s charms were well-known to me. I had a favorite bar (or two), a massive number of connections to people high and low. I did my time there, all of it. Drugs and boys, smoking, walking barefoot on the sidewalks in the rain, music and bars, art openings, poetry readings, Brady’s, film-making, Filmworks, parties where the porches nearly collapsed from the weight of people on them, professors, Kent Fest, May 4 Rally Day, Halloween.

Swimming naked at the quarry all summer long and getting a “quarry buzz” (we still don’t know what was in the water that gave us this). I got my first dog at a house in Brady Lake, with a “free puppy” sign; really trashy, the bitch mom was tied up and god knows how many litters they kept letting her have. Four puppies ran toward me and I chose the one who “got there first.” She was the best dog in the world, too, Kent born and bred. Towner’s Woods was ours. Mountain biking behind the railroad tracks where there is now a huge McMansion development.

I moved on to home-ownership, a house I used to walk by and dream about living in “if it ever goes up for sale, I hope it will be mine.” Dreams were manifest.

I got sober in Mogadore, right near Akron, OH, home of Dr. Bob. Let me tell you, those were some hardcore Big Book Thumpers. Had my home group two blocks from my house.

I ran a successful local business, got married. People I loved died when I lived in Kent.

My babies were born in that house, 1920s Craftsman-style, built-in oak bookshelves and flooring, high ceilings on the first floor, fireplace, solarium, glass door knobs, pulleys on the windows, plaster-and-lath construction, butterfly hinges. Not like this 1965-ranch I live in with hollow doors, low ceilings and not a lick of heart, imagination, or love.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago when I visited Kent after several years of being away. It’s really more of a summer poem, but today is May 4 and all, so why not?

Pilgrimage

for Maj, Sheila, and Megan

Along I-86 in New York, I see more deer carcasses beside the road
than on the interstate in Massachusetts.

Roadkill in varying states of decay
all the way to Ohio.

I am a pilgrim and a stranger and I have forgotten the names of the streets that bore me

If I could dig my fingers deep into the flesh of a soft fruit,
I would find what I came for

I came to your door but you weren’t home

I was so shaken that I couldn’t leave a note, my hand uncooperative in the sharp July heat

I tried for a word or something more fundamental
like a rock or feather

But I left without a trace

Still, there are trails and cross-hatchings that mark my way

And in that place, before the life I know now,
you are the family that held me

My life is full enough, but I am grateful for how you shaped me

I carry it always, only maybe sometimes I forget the names of the streets

July 31, 2009

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