Coming Home

Gerald Stern’s, “Let Me Please Look Into My Window” is such a beautiful and powerful poem in the understated grief he describes in leaving home, “Let me walk up Broadway past Zak’s, past the Melody Fruit Store,” he says, listing the small details of his home and street, “past Stein’s Eyes, past the New Moon Inn, past the Olympia.” As you read on, you recognize Stern is describing more than leaving home, but leaving life itself–

Let me leave quietly by Gate 29

and fall asleep as we pull away from the ramp
into the tunnel.

Let me wake up happy, let me know where I am, let me lie still,
as we turn left, as we cross the water, as we leave the light.

For many of us who have lived away from their home countries for decades, there comes a time, though you didn’t necessarily think it would, when it’s hard to leave, hard to head back across the water again. You just want to stay home and rediscover all the small details of the world there that you didn’t know when you lived there–to walk up your own home town’s Broadway or Melody’s Fruit store in all its wonderful commonplace richness. But you have to leave–you have commitments to meet. Quietly, you walk past your own gate 29, leaving the light behind to sleep in the airplane’s cocoon, and wake up on the other side of the world.

In the other world you live in, you try out new things, learning new skills, go new places. Explore. It is a good world, too, but something hidden in you longs, after a while, to come home to yourself. To be whole. Perhaps it is the longing that enables us to recognize home, and what it is we need in order to be whole.

I’m wondering, what does it mean for you to come home to yourself? What do you need to feel whole?

Read Stern’s full poem here, on the Writer’s Almanac.

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