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You Can Go Home Again, But You Can't Stay

Wisconsin Triptych



Left Panel: Time Traveling To Madison


For weeks I’d been calling it a sentimental

journey, back to the 60s, back to the college

boy I was, but by Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania,

US-80 whining with sixteen wheelers all

around, I understood it was much more

of a reconnasissance, a private amber alert


to find a missing boy, the one who had drifted

away, a longhaired Chagallian kid floating

down State Street, skinny shy boy who had

disappeared into the traffic a lifetime before

I hauled this old crate into the new red pickup

and headed west, a thousand miles of interstate,


seven decades of songs on shuffle, only to realize

as I drove down familiar Langdon Street, I wouldn’t

find him at the old haunts, the dorm on N. Carroll,

the Rathskellar, the lakeside terrace, never introduce

myself as the man we’d become, nor invite him

to stroll with me, though such an odd pair we’d be,

trudging up Bascomb Hill under relentless sun,

cloudless sky, grass flattening under our feet, we

bump shoulders, I tell him where we’d been, who

we’ve loved, who we lost, his shy smirk on my face,

my tremulous voice in his throat, saying I know,

I’ve been crouching under your skin our whole life.



Center Panel: West to Milwaukee

For Jim Hazard, 1936-2012

Sunday, cruising in on 94 from Madison, the Great Lake ahead, which is, no exaggeration, a great lake, and then it’s Monday morning and I’m meandering to the art museum, wings flapping over water, to find them closed up, one more message from the tides about how this life is about timing, that tumbling undertow into love, into disaster, borne back ceaselessly north on Lake Drive, west on East Kenwood, aching muscle memory leading me past our apartment, 3462 N. Newhall, then down the street to the curb in front of 3379, where Cael was a toddler, where Nancy was born, the living room where I smoked Lucky Strike after Lucky Strike, blindly leading classes of kids not much younger than me, where nearly 50 years later I’d cut the engine, get out of the truck, stand on the sidewalk, a father to that clueless husband, boyish dad, rudderless writer, no compass, no sextant, decades away from awe at the magic of how he signed on with the only helmsman on the lake who would know how to set a buoy over the shipwrecked poetry of a soul adrift … so I would find it after he drowned.



Right Panel: On Line For the Ferry to Muskegon


Now I’m idling in the red truck, east side of Milwaukee, west shore of sparkling blue Lake Michigan, still wondering what this solo journey is all about, though at this hour, sun in my eyes, I am not clear what anything is all about. Today. Tomorrow.


Yesterday I sat with two smiling broken-hearted widows

of my long lost friends, wrapped these arms around their angular

shoulders, pressed this scratchy face to soft cheeks, inhaling

as if I might find the scent of Spring 1971 in their hair.


How melancholy their sparkling lined eyes! That cavernous

pause between syllables! So deep I could hear echos of Patti’s

private thoughts some summer afternoon ahead, willing

a well-meaning visitor to just leave her be, go home

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