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"A Journey Home"

Every night about this time we hear a train. 
The railroad line is over a mile from here, 
but we can feel the rumble of the giant on its tracks, 
and hear the whistle calling us to come along 
to new or old places. 

For many reasons, we canít go right now, 
but the sound of a night train stirs up forgotten feelings. 
Itís been too long since our last visit to our hometown. 
Here are some impressions from that journey. 

You can tell the age of a city the way you do a tree, 
by rings growing outward from the center. 
At first a young city huddles around its downtown section, 
turning its back to the wilderness. 
As the city grows, rings of newness form around its perimeter, 
siphoning vitality from the town center. 
The seed, having served its purpose, 
is in the first stages of death. 

The first thing you notice is 
that the best parts are being corrupted by construction. 

In your old haunts, 
people stare at youÖ 
the stranger. 

The crown of trees that arched over every street is gone, 
attacked by Dutch Elm Disease. 
Shopping plazas, fast food joints, strip malls, 
and other clutter disrupts your perspective. 

You study street signs, 
trying to pin down memories. 

Everything is smaller. 

The big house you used to live in is hard to find 
because of its new smallness, 
and it's in a strange, tough neighborhood. 

People who go away remember details 
often ignored by those who stay. 
Travelers to faraway landscapes 
think that everyone back home is waiting for our return. 
When we get there, 
no one notices we've been gone. 

Most of us displaced persons have two cities we call home 
The town as it is today, 
and the one we remember. 

The memory city is more real to me. 

Copyright © October 15, 2005 by Jack Blanchard. All rights reserved.

 

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