This past month, my family and I moved for the fifth time in less than five years: that’s six houses in five towns in two states (not including the short interlude at a Michigan commune after a permanent evacuation from a wildfire, but that’s a whole other story.) While normal families take annual vacations, we wind down and unload life’s stresses by packing/unpacking house and spending a frenetic couple of days making sure that year’s toddler doesn’t fall off the Uhaul ramp.
Needless to say, ‘moving’ has been a thorn-in-the-side kind of pain that has overshadowed any mental or social growth in this season of life. Or, I wonder, is it a blessing in disguise to get a small feel for what the hundreds of millions of refugees and migrant workers scattered throughout the earth go through for a much more extended time and with amplified persecution and hardship? Is it perhaps a good thing to ponder movement of human beings, why we go, and what we use for fuel.
Time to Fly
You go because you heard a cuckoo call. You go because
you’ve met someone, you made a vow, there are no more
grasshoppers. You go because the cold is coming, spring
is coming, soldiers are coming: plague, flood, an ice age,
a new religion, a new idea. You go because the world rotates,
because the world is changing and you’ve lost the key.
You go because you have the kingdom of heaven in your heart.
And the kingdom of hell has taken over someone else’s heart.
You go because you have magnetite in your brain, thorax, tips
of your teeth. Because there’s food over the hill
and there’ll be gold, or more likely bauxite,
inside the hill. You go because your mother is dying
and only you can bring her the apples of the Hesperides.
You go because you need work.
You go because astrologers say so. Because the sea
is calling and your best friend bought a motorbike
in America last year. You go because the streets are paved
with gold and your father went when he was your age.
You go because you have seventeen children and the Lord will provide;
because your sixteen brothers have parcelled up the land
and there’s none left for you. You go because the waters are rising,
an ice sheet is melting, the rivers are dry
there are no more fish in the sea. You go because God
has given you a sign – you had a dream – the potatoes are blighted.
Because it is too hot, too cold, you are on a quest for knowledge
and knowledge is always beyond. You go because it’s destiny,
because Pharoah won’t let you light candles at sundown on Friday.
Because you’re looking for
an enchanted lake, the meaning of life, a tall tree to nest in.
You go because travel is holy, because your body
is wired to go, you’d have a quite different body and different brain
if you were the sort of bird that stayed. You go
because you can’t pay the rent: creditors lie in wait for your children
after school. You go because Pharoah has hogged the oil,
electricity and paraffin so all you have on your table
are candles, when you can get them.
You go because there’s nothing left to hope for;
because there’s everything to hope for and all life is risk.
You go because someone put the evil eye on you
and barometric pressure is dropping. You go because
you can’t cope with your gift – other people can’t cope with your gift – you have no gift and the barbarians are after you.
You go because the barbarians are gone, Herod
has turned off the internet and mobile phones, the modem
is useless and the eagles are coming. You go because the eagles
have died off with the vultures and the ancestors are angry
there’s no one to clean the bones. You go in peace, you go in war.
Someone has offered you a job. You go because your dog
is going too. Because the Grand Vizier sent paramilitaries to your house last night
you have to go quick and leave the dog behind.
You go because you’ve eaten the dog and that’s it, there’s nothing else.
You go because you’ve given up and might as well. Because your love
is dead – because she laughed at you; because she’s coming with you,
it will be a big adventure and you’ll live happily ever after.
You go in hope, in faith, in haste, high spirits, deep sorrow, deep
snow, deep shit and without question.
You pause halfway to stoke up on Omega 3 and horseshoe crabs.
You go for phosphorus, myrtle-berries, salt. You go for oil
and pepper. It was your father’s dying wish.
You go from pole to pole, you go because you can,
you have no feet, you sleep and mate on the wing.
Because you need a place to shed your skin
in safety. You go with a thousand questions but you are growing up,
growing old, moving on. Say goodbye to the might-have-beens –
you can’t step into the same river twice. You go because hope, need and escape
are names for the same god. You go because life
is sweet, life is cheap, life is flux
and you can’t take it with you. You go because you’re alive,
because you’re dying, maybe dead already. You go because you must.
To think of the earth as a living creature teeming with billions of propagating microorganisms (us), perhaps the only way to maintain health and sustainability is for there to be proper flow. Like air, blood, water, regeneration, qi, prana, life, love, spirit. And yes: migration. To stagnate is to die. Yet, there comes a day when those laissez faire metaphors will no longer serve as kinetic energy for one’s life, having been replaced magically, mystically by a new axiom of the power of earth and root, by the virtue of stillness.
Two Voices in a Meadow
Anonymous as cherubs
Over the crib of God,
White seeds are floating
Out of my burst pod.
What power had I
Before I learned to yield?
Shatter me, great wind:
I shall possess the field.
As casual as cow-dung
Under the crib of God,
I lie where chance would have me,
Up to the ears in sod.
Why should I move? To move
Befits a light desire.
The sill of Heaven would founder,
Did such as I aspire.
[Source: The New Yorker, August 17, 1957]
Tonight, as we congregate here at the pub from all virtual corners of the world, let us consider movement among the population as a whole, or even just among ourselves by asking, Where am I going and where have I been? What is the trajectory of my life? We can also explore motion in an abstract way by using tempo in our poetry.
Post a poem to your blog, link it up below, and let’s get moving!