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terra incognita map

Image by Kattigara, CC 3.0


Sitting dark and tight
In crepuscular light,
You pass the shuttered houses
That line the half-lit streets,
The weekend retreats
Of absent urbanites, their country dreams
That only money can redeem
Or so it seems to them when counting
Out their lives in latte spoons.

An evening walk. No smells
Of steaks in passageways.
No tinkling of a glass, no laugh
That might suggest a face
Could press against a pane
To see who might be passing.
The only sign of life the breeze,
The falling leaves, the silent sound
Of the moon’s bright weeping.

You wipe your eyes and ask,
What is this aching for a home
That can’t be bought or found?
Why did Odysseus try to dodge the war,
The Prodigal Son come back, the young
Abandoned girl go far away in search
Of shelter in a meditative secret sound
To quell the lonely panic in her soul?
Such answers empty houses never told.


You stretch your neck and watch
Them rise and sail across the sky.
You laugh and wonder where they’re heading,
What they mean by going to eternal rest.

Your mother used to make you guess
At what you really could not say.
“Now that you’ve made your home
In Massachusetts longer than with us,
Where do you say that you are from?”

I never thought to answer her
That what I’ve always wondered
Is where I’m going,
Not from whence I sprung.

How could I tell my dying mother,
Who would beg me not to let her go
Into the undiscovered country that she dreaded,
That all the dwellings that I saw were dreams
And all the people merely dreamers,
Not a bit like where her hope was headed.

It’s hard to say I’ll ever stop
Walking down streets that lead
To streets that weave past vacant houses
On silent nights in crepuscular light.

How do you say we all are wanderers now,
Homeless modern minds exiled from time,
Thinking that God has left us banished here,
But knowing we have not come near
The terra incognita that we’re yearning for?

Article reposted with permission from the author.


"Educated in the classics, philosophy, literature, theology, and sociology, I teach sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. My writing on varied topics has appeared widely over many years. I write as a public intellectual for the general public, not as a specialist for a narrow readership. I believe a non-committal sociology is an impossibility and therefore see all my work as an effort to enhance human freedom through understanding."—Edward Curtin

Behind the Curtain http://edwardcurtin.com/

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