They Say You Can’t Go Home Again

by Jeannine Hall Gailey

On this phone app they have you pick
your ideal calming backdrop
some of them are a tropical ocean
some of them snowdrops in space
none are my idea of calming
which if I recall was far into the woods
away from any sound at all
except maybe I remember cicadas
and the chittering of squirrels and the one mockingbird
that sounded like all the birds plus dogs barking
there were a lot of stray dogs in Tennessee
the way I was a stray
all of us were we ran around a lot away from grownup eyes
sometimes we got hurt and we bled
and got rocks embedded in our arms when we fell
but that doesn’t stop me from remembering lying under the oak trees
and under the oak trees grew these miniscule violets
and tiny vibrant mosses so beautiful
they came and tore up my yard the trees the daffodils the strawberry patches
and they put down concrete and they left it like that for twenty years
just a lot of concrete where trees used to grow
five miles from Oak Ridge National Labs
and our neighbors with the farm their land was bought
and it’s no longer a farmhouse
she had all these tiny figurines
and their house looked like Little House on the Prairie
They were old and had no children
like me and my husband will be someday
I don’t own figurines but I have a lot of books
and no one to pass them on to
and I’ve finally got my own trees and grass
not enough to get lost in really
but I hope they don’t turn it into concrete
one day you’re in no-man’s land rural country
the next it’s a suburb and then a city.
Some parts of the country are left to survive or not
like us as children, running around in the dark whooping it up
diving into ponds with forbidding signs saying “Not Safe”
just as unsure and unfrightened of our futures.

JEANNINE HALL GAILEY served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She’s the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She’s also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing.