From the Last Century

by Al Maginnes

Now that we have come far enough
to know we will not perish
out here, we can look back
and see the place we started
the way sailors see coastlines
gain clarity in the distance
permitted by voyage. Soon it will
be impossible to fathom
we were born in that shroud-weave
of trees and fog, that we kissed
first loves there and left
the houses where we spent
childhoods sleeping through
the long dusks of summer,
always trusting the moment
we lived in to give shelter,
geographies of departure
postponed though they hovered
like the featureless widths
of ancient maps, continents blank,
marked only by warnings.
Now mythic beasts retreat
before our pragmatic advance,
and the past becomes territory
where fiction blossoms, the place
of my birth legendary
and nameless as chimney-smoke over
Dickens’ London, as ghost-shapes
of figures we twisted antennas
to clarify on tube-burning TVs
in the days when weather
and location, not cable
or satellite placement, commanded
reception, when any town
that was not the town where you lived
was foreign, each road a line
in the impossible cursive
of the world, script of a language
we spoke once but forgot
as we have forgotten
our first words and what they meant
to those left on that fading coastline.
Soon enough we will need
new words to tell the ones born
since we crossed that unfelt border,
That was our home. We lived there.

AL MAGINNES is the author of five full length collections and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently Inventing Constellations (Cherry Grove Edition, 2012) and Ghost Alphabet (White Pine Press, 2008), winner of the White Pine Poetry Prize. Recent or forthcoming poems appear in Tar River Poetry, Solo Café, Arkansas Review, Bookends Review, Southern Humanities Review. He lives with his family in Raleigh, NC, and teaches composition, literature and creative writing at Wake Technical Community College.