Home (A Metonym for Loss)


a dialogue

It’s difficult—to explain the strangeness of moving back home after spending seven years elsewhere,

difficult—to reckon with what home means, to not feel any of my historical comfort at being here.

To, in this way, feel homeless, untethered.

This year has been especially hard for most of us. There has been a certain sense of flux and uncertainty which, for me, was madeworse by the fact that I didn’t have anything lined-up post-master’s, thus jackthrusting me back into the box of my hometown.

Being back in Berkeley, California is strange because here is my childhood, laid before me, and yet I no longer am a child.

Being back home is strange: back in my childhood bedroom, its pink walls and curtains, the secret messages scrawled on the underside of my bedframe.

All my old notebooks tucked into the storage closet.

Age seven: I wish there was an upside-down waterfall with a stream in the sky.

Age seven: The day is amazed when the night unfolds her cape and fills up with stars.

Age seven: I am the San Andreas Fault. I am a big long crack.

Back in this house on this faultline, I become it again: a crack, fissuring.

I lived in this city for eighteen years, so moving home means being assaulted by memories:

smoke-filled summers spent submerged under lakewater;

falling from the treehouse, the feel of pine needles beneath my palms;

gorging myself on wild blackberries;

scampering up onto roofs to see the view of the San Francisco skyline.

Age eight: where the ocean hums.

The inevitable hollers that followed. You’re trespassing!

Back in my boyhood—which was just my girlhood before the awareness of danger—I climbed every tree. I gathered flowers from so many gardens, eager to give bouquets away.

Age eight: And the creature went back to catch that fish—the one with a spell—a boy—and when he was found he was turned back—

The pool I almost drowned in.

Age seven: Duck duckling of the lagoon. why do you swim so calmly? while I’m crying alone.

Being back home, every day I drive past the primary school I went to:

tie-dyed shirts, half-zip pants, too-big shoes,

where I saw a classmate’s bone come clear through her skin,

where I hid under the desk after every tremor.

Every morning before work, I stand in front of my childhood mirror, the one I looked into the night I spoke on the phone, shaking, said I like like her.

Age eight: Love, with the wind that blows so wildly it keeps us safe in night mares.

The panic attack I had on the hardwood floor.

Age eight: My secret looks like a wave and salt.

Age eight: my secrets are lost, my secrets are forgaten.

The seashells on the windowsill.

My first day back, I saw my high school crush walking down University Avenue as if no time had passed. Hot Emily, I’d always called her—

which wasn’t my most feminist choice.

Age seven: and the cloak of the hours lies down to dream.

My second day back, I went down to Fourth Street, where my friend’s parents had lived back when they were living.

Age seven: The vase of the sky suddently broke. all of us cried.

I went back to the lake where I’d jumped from the rocks, half-hoping I wouldn’t survive the fall.

Age nine: then I am in a room, under water, I can see I can breathe, I open a door.

Age nine: I am in a wonderful place, no danger at all.

All the alyssum still makes its way into my poems, still sprouts through the sidewalk cracks.

Age eight: black earth with wite flowers.

My best friend’s childhood home. Tiny imprint of her hand on the sidewalk.

I don’t know if home is still the word for where I am.

The sunflowers, eucalyptus, lavender.


Age seven: Oh wow! Pretty flowers. I’ll pick a cuple.

The fields of clover I lay in,

dress clinging to skin in the rain.

Age seven: In the cristal of the bubble the big earth reflects.

My father’s cactus, the one day a year it blooms.

Age seven: The rooster opens his beak and the sun comes out. The sun opens his hand And the day is born.

The scissors I used to hack off my hair.

Age nine: my eyes shut my heart likes to hide.

The sycamores lining Marin Avenue.

Age seven: the wind blowing my hair. the cars zooming by on the street.

The path down to the creek, predictably overgrown with poison oak.

Is home still home when most of the people you love have left it?

The scent of sunburnt leaves.

The rusted X-Acto knife in my top drawer, still hidden away.

Age seven: Pony buddy how far ar you taking me?

The rooms I very earnestly tried to die in.

Out in the garden, the buzz of bees.

Is home still home when I’m nowhere near who I was before?

The parks I’d sneak out to after dark: Remillard, Crescent.

Age seven: The moon was one big house.

The water-warped treehouse is gone now, but there are still the steps nailed into the bark.

The bed where I had my first time,



Age seven: The light reversed itself and the black got born.

The neighbors don’t recognize me now.

Age seven: Plop! another planet ends.

The weeds I was paid to pull. Two cents each!

Age seven: The blue came and painted its time.

The same jar in the cabinet—honey to mix into my tea.

Is home the place where ghosts linger at every corner?

Age seven: Oh! I sure want to go home.

Or is home the place that forbids you your forgetting?

Still the overgrown graveyard out back, the cats and dog and fish we held funerals for, mostly bones now.

Age seven: The waiting continues while the water splashes outside.

Years later, my parents still add the same detergent to the wash.

The sand-dollars collecting dust on my dresser,

the beehive in the neighbor’s garden.

I know I call this city home but it reeks of loss.

All I knew feels pocked with holes—

like a cut of sea coral, a honeycomb.