Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where Home Is

Well, I'm back in France where my house is, where I currently live, where I love and am loved, so this is home. But Wales is home too, at least the concrete aspects of it: the pebble-dash house where I was born, the sea, my dad's vegetable garden, my mam's walnut wardrobes and dressing table that she's had since she was married in 1952. My family. The way people in South Wales use the word 'bad' for 'ill', as in 'she's been bad since last week'. It is so nurturing to feel connected to people and place.

But it is possible to lose our sense of connection even if the people and places in our lives remain unchanged. Perhaps we change. The way we feel. The way we think. Perhaps our view of our world becomes warped. Sometimes that sense of disconnection is temporary. Other times it represents the need for a fundamental change in our life.

Can you write about not being 'at home', either in a literal or metaphorical sense?

Here's a poem I wrote a few years ago.

Where Home Is

A woman stands at the side of the road
staring up at the night sky. Questions
about desire have made her stop her car:

how it’s born, how to tend it, how it dies.
She has read of people killing for it.
She knows a woman who almost disappeared

under its weight. Places return to her –
Belleville, Sweetwater: beauty, something
to quench the heat of her tongue.

It is June, the nights are warm.
One star shines too close to the moon.
She is still so far away from home.

Runner-up,Yorkshire Open Poetry Competition 2006
Published in Equinox July 2007

Thank you for waiting for my return.
Write well.
L x


martin cordrey said...

welcolme home too Applehouse!

Glenn Buttkus said...


I grew up gypsy-wild,
my father changing jobs
like he changed shirts.
Schools, friends, neighborhoods were
a panorama of mental postcards,
flashing past my merry-go-round
in a constant stream of imagery.

Home was just a word, an illusion,
used flippantly, sounding hollow,
like saying love
when you meant lust.
Home was just a place, a feeling
that I witnessed in others,
not something within my
personal dominion, so
I just looked at my city,
Seattle, as home;
the place I was reared,
a seven-hilled city by the Sound—
even though it was
like pointing to a great hotel
and speaking
of the 40 apartments
I had lived in.

I found myself spending time
residing in the vast halls
of my imagination,
haunting movie houses, libraries, parks,
finding solace in the memory
of past lives and past homes.

One day I noticed by parents were gone,
the familiar landmarks had changed,
my friends had swapped faces
so often I could hardly recognize
any of them. I wandered for a time
naked, solitary, vulnerable,
chasing ghosts and shredded memories.

But I was lucky.
A tall woman waltzed into my life
twenty years ago and miraculously
decided to grow old with me.
We drew up our contract
with the State and with God,
and soon became the twin occupants
of a two-headed love beast,
and together grew into one
complete organism.

the word home
and the word love
inhabit common ground
midst the limitless confines
of that golden beast—
and it feels like home
every time
I hold my wife’s heart.

Glenn Buttkus

Keith Wallis said...


Vanished people leave headstones in my life.
Monoliths and cairns scattered
in uncomfortable miscellany
finger every contemplation.
Engravings of joy and sorrow
mark their passage
in crevasses of remembrance.
Some bring summer sunshafts
into dismal days;
friends who come, open and in welcome,
bringing encouragement in unwrapped parcels.
Others, in accusation, bring curtains of darkness
to ambush bright moments;
enemies in disguise and deception,
cloaked hurt and harm.
There are legions of headstones
in the graveyard of the past
their inscriptions in bright relief
or weathered to insignificance.
Each short-circuited
stab of history, my story,
carries its gift or tax in sudden hand.
Each haunts yesterday, informs today,
releases or holds hostage the day to come.

Hilaire said...

A Bit of an Animal

Perhaps she was always the other,
at birth a cuckoo, a damaged cuckoo,
devouring attention and the choicest worms,
growing fatter than her siblings.

She was different. More like Auntie Di
who turned to sculpting
and dreamt shapes of strong-thighed women
out of a stale marriage,
wore the same dress to two sons’ weddings,
“Why on earth not?” she’d said.

Later cuckoo morphs into sheep,
black, black sheep
dancing in the fields,
unaware of its own colour
and the cut of the butcher’s knife.

Then blood thins ‘til it’s thinner than water,
thinner than her mother’s lips,
thinner than the neighbours’ disapproval
as it flows in the veins of her child.

And now she’s – what?
The one that got away?
The horse that bolted?
The stable-door now well and truly locked.

She moves to one country, then another,
at home among the unfamiliar,
where they do things differently,
and speak a language not her own.

Now she’s cú glas, the exiled wolf,
incomer, foreigner, blow-in,
her otherness visa’d not vetoed,
and, finally - ratified.

Helen said...

So lovely to have you back and I hope your mother is well.

martin cordrey said...


There’s something about travelling
at six hundred miles per hour,

thirty eight thousand feet that focuses
the mind, or maybe dangling over an ocean

neither in one country or another
that starts you thinking about home.

After severe turbulence
I can see why released hostages

fall to their knees, kiss
the soil of their native land.

I even manage to conquer my fear
as a female voice announces that she

is flying our plane, proud at how far
we have travelled as Nation.

jem24 said...

Hi my name is Jane (I'm 19, a student - just a bit of background!) I'm new to this and not very happy with my first attempt but here goes :)

For a year she has led a double life,
Though not the exciting kind. She has
No mysteries, or mistresses; alter-egos,subterfuge.
Just a nomadic student with
Too much laundry and a desk full of papers.

Every few months the voice of necessity and
Blood-is-thicker-than-water calls her,
Heavy with duty and pain.
"Butterfly retract your wings
Come back and be earthbound again"
She gathers up boxes named silly things
Like Independence, Freedom, Responsibility
And stores they high above her head,
Ready for the next journey.

Adjusting anew to the old space,
Putting her objects among old otherlife objects,
Trying to find them a place
Where they will feel comfortable.
Unfortunately it is more like when
You try to jam two pieces of a puzzle
Which obviously don't fit.

Same as always on the surface of it,
But some things cannot be ignored.
Habits not heard of here, luxuries she can't usually afford.
The unspoken compromise epitomised in the tone
Of her cautious mother on the phone:
"What did you say that sauce you use was called?
I thought that we might try it"

Unfortunately home is not a feeling simple enough that you can buy it.

Lynne Rees said...

Thanks for coming back to AppleHouse, everyone, after such a long break.

@ Glen - the last line of your poem hit me so hard:
"I hold my wife’s heart."
What a beautiful ending. And it would make a stunning title for a poem too.

@ Keith - I really love the ideas of 'gift' or 'tax' that you have at the end of your poem too. In fact that line:
'carries its gift or tax in sudden hand' has a lovely rhythm to it, adding a sense of things being balanced, or weighed up.

@ Hilaire - I seem to be commenting on the ends of everyone's poems!! Again, here, I found the close to be really strong. 'cu glas' - my welsh is a bit rusty, but does that literally mean 'blue dog'? Lovely image. I loved too:
'thinner than her mother’s lips,
thinner than the neighbours’ disapproval'

@ Martin - There's an attractive and satisfying straightforwardness about this. Dangerous territory there at the end (female drivers!!) but I love the honesty : )

@ jem24 - hello, Jem. Thanks so much for posting. I like your poem a lot. And if this is a first attempt then you should be pleased with it. You could, perhaps, strengthen it in places... just by trimming a few bits that I think the poem is already saying to the reader. E.g.

'the voice of necessity and
Blood-is-thicker-than-water calls' seems to me to contain/suggest the ideas of 'duty and pain' on the next line.

'Trying to find them a place
Where they will feel comfortable.
Unfortunately it is more like when
You try to jam two pieces of a puzzle
Which obviously don't fit.'

could be trimmed to something like:
Trying to find them a place -
pieces of a puzzle
which obviously don't fit.

I think it's a matter of just developing confidence in your voice and what you are saying... trusting the reader to understand without having to explain quite so fully? You could even think of cutting the last line and ending on the brilliant use of dialogue about the sauce. That's just great.

I look forward to reading more of your work.

And thanks for the welcome home, everyone. I'll post another prompt for the beginning of July.
L x

Hilaire said...

Thanks for the comments Lynne. I hope you're enjoying being bacck home.

'Cú glas' is actually Irish, meaning grey dog, wolf - an early Irish term for an exile from overseas. 'Glas' is applied to a range of colours from pale blues to greens to greys. Very similar to Welsh 'glas' - and Welsh for dog is 'ci' - again very similar.

I should probably put a note at the bottom of the poem.

iolaire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iolaire said...

Old Campsall

It used to have shops, a post office and farms
Now all I see are gates and alarms
Incomers with Audis and BMWs
Have “tidied up” it’s rustic charms

Signs saying “Keep Off” and “Keep Out”
I get the message mate, no need to shout
Southern accents that grate and rub
An empty church and a boarded up pub

No old men sitting on the bench by the phone
Meeting to have their nightly moan
No village hall panto or weekly dance
Village life now stands little chance

They came attracted by the lure
But destroyed the idyll that’s for sure
It’s called progress - or so I’m told
Maybe I’m just getting old…

©2008 Tez Watson

Lynne Rees said...

@ iolaire : thanks so much for posting your poem which made me think about 'changes'. My husband has a saying, which can be irritating sometimes!, 'Change is the only permanent thing'. And maybe your comment at the end of the poem, about being old, has a ring of truth. I find as I get older that I don't respond to change as well as I used to. It might be an interesting exercise to write a poem about the things that have changed in our lives that we have welcomed and cherished... I'll have to think about that some more.

iolaire said...

Thanks Lynne

I look forward to that challenge, is there any way I can be notified of changes to this blog as I don't get on that often and would like a prompt...


Lynne Rees said...

@ Tez/iolaire - if you follow the blog you can manage it through 'Messaging' and choose notifications just from the blog host, and from the site members if you tick that box too. Changes to a blog also appear on your blog dashboard, or, at least they do on mine! Looking forward to seeing more of you on AppleHouse.