Roundtrip Journeyman

Cities I Have Walked This Way

(looking for sense in the time map)

Buffalo, Boston, Manhattan, Dublin, London,Frankfurt, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Berkeley, Charleston, Portland, Honolulu, Venice, Bozeman, Paris, Stockholm, New Orleans, Hong Kong, Chicago, Apia, Suva, Seattle, Sydney and Townsville and Auckland, at least

Take it to the wall again tonight, bro.

Finish the bottle and the cigarettes.

You’re not there yet. Take it to the streets

long after midnight. At the market

women are sleeping beside their taro.

Taxis are taking the last whores home.

Take it to the waterfront where always

everywhere men are awake with their

cigarettes. Walk it past the police station,

let the back street dogs bark at you.

Take it back to your indigenous city jungle,

walking like a ghost that casts a shadow.

Take it back, reclaim your birthright—

lost nights on the street like a swollen

scabbed-over fist, a bad cup of coffee,

a women in your brain driving you crazy and

a long walk home where you don’t want to be

because the words won’t begin and

the bottles are empty and the bed

is a succubus. Walk it off, shake it off,

city boy. Disappear in an alley way,

walk through that wall to survive.

(from 14 Degrees South, John Enright © 2012)

*   *   *   *

“I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

*   *   *   *

3700 miles later, Connie and I drive back across the Jamestown Bridge from Kingstown onto our home island, making this a roundtrip. We have been dodging weather all the way up, waiting for windows of warmth to the north. Not all journeys are roundtrips. There have been many places of no return, just passing through.

There have been hitchhiker wandering times in my life when I would wonder if the strange town I was hiking into with just a pack on my back would become a terminus destination. I might meet some woman in a bar, find some seasonal work; and the next thing I’d know it would be three seasons later, she’d be pregnant, and I’d just bought her a used washing machine. That almost happened a couple of times. Life would have been different. Fate is just another name for happenstance. Chaos shrugs off determination. One of them was named Petranella, warmth in a Montana winter.

In and out of time, like traveling from state to state. There is nothing as timeless as an empty highway, where your mind is free. The future is ahead, speeding toward you, but you can’t see it. Or think of it this way—that you and the present are stationary, unmoving, and the world and time are speeding past you.

home Back to our cabin buried in snow where the road ends at the woods, a single deer track through the drifts. The Weather Channel has made it from Juno to Thor in the naming of storms in our absence. I turn my cell phone back on. The six weeks of collected mail is mostly bills. The first night back my dreams are all of Samoa and filled with the dead. Is déjà vu caused by past dreams of the future? In Florida the most common birds were the always effortlessly circling vultures.

Roundtrip. Desert nomads followed a cycle, always moving, always returning. No true navigator ever set sail thinking that he could never return. We come home and find ourselves, like an imprint in a favorite chair.

Juno In January

Snow maskConnie and I waited out winter storm Juno before departing Rhode Island. Juno, the premiere Roman goddess, ancient defender of women’s rights. American Christians put up with this? An 80-hour chunk of the news cycle dedicated to a pagan goddess with feminist tendencies? Ask Jupiter about it, as always unattributed. I paid $50 to have our Toyota shoveled free. Juno was trying to keep us home, together by the wood stove. Hearth and home—the nucleus of female power, the core of distaff gravity. The road, the edges, those were male worlds. It was always the men who wandered away, the males that expanded the gene pool by arriving somewhere else.

Snow chimes

Only, it was Connie who wanted to hit the road. “Snow? So what? Let’s go.” Come to think of it, when you see photographs of refugees, they are most often women, women and children.  Connie was a willing refugee from winter; she was taking me with her. The derogatory term is snow birds—those geriatrics free enough to flee the northern freeze, to escape the torture of winterboarding. Derogatory based on envy. I like being referred to as a bird, even metaphorically.

Bright snow flakes

For 26 years I had lived in the southern hemisphere tropics, where winter meant basically a little less rain and different plants blooming. I had a six-foot high poinsettia plant in my back yard that I had to cut back every 4th of July because it went crazy. I never wore shoes. The only snowballs we had was when I defrosted the freezer, and they did not last long. We tossed them off the balcony to die.


It would be nice to be warm again, to shed these layers of clothing. Connie is right. We are out of here. It is primordial. The womb was warm, and death is cold. Head south.