You can’t go home.
I wandered by my home,
the place where I was born.
The garden – swathed in concrete,
my playing field gone forever.
No more would I lay in the long grass,
picking daisies and buttercups
then putting them under my chin.
I would squeal with delight when my sister
would say, Your chin is yellow.
Nor would I dig into the rich dark soil
and clamber into my trench.
Wooden rifle pointing at the enemy.
My hedgehog’s gone from his grave by the fence,
and I’ll never be able to dig up my dead Uncle’s watch.
The house held secrets the new people didn’t know,
I felt its heart slowly beating and knew it remembered me.
It didn’t want me there, perhaps I reminded it of the pain.
I looked at the front gate and felt the fear of jumping off the gatepost.
My parachute didn’t open and I smuggled the sheet back into the house.
The street held nothing but wraithes of memories
and familiar houses were Inhabited by strangers.
I walked the pathways of my childhood,
a lumbering old man in search of answers,
hope, love, who knows.
Whatever it was I didn’t find it,
It had been overlaid with the phantoms of others who had come this way.
Everything seemed smaller, closed in.
The houses hugged the street.
The vacant lot where we burnt the Guy had been built on,
the scars, from bombs of a war long gone had finally been erased.
The chip shop stood at the end of the street like a beacon
but when I peered through the window It lost its appeal.
It didn’t look the same, perhaps I had changed.
Besides, the window wasn’t misted over.
Nor was it a winter’s night and my sister wasn’t there.
I can still see her face in the glow from the window,
cheeks red, eyes glistening with delight
as she ripped open the newspaper wrapped package.
Steam poured out, bringing with it the aroma of cooking oil,
chips and burnt scraps of fish.
Oh, the delight of picking at the chips with cold fingers,
sticking the hot, salty treasures into your mouth.
I’ve never recaptured the exact taste,
I never saw her so happy again.
I wandered away from the memories,
her ghost followed me,
for a while,
then faded back into the landscape of my past.
Laurie Smith© 2013
My sister Noreen and I in the backyard of our home in England, about 1955. I returned in the summer of 2002 after an absence of 41 years and wandered the streets and parks. I stood looking at my home for a long time. No answers came forward, only a mixture of happiness and horror. I went to the front door and spoke with the woman who lived there now. Deep feelings swirled inside me and I thanked her and hurried away. That house didn’t want me there at all.