Poetry Friday: You Are Here

“Why You Travel” by Gail Mazur from Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems. © University of Chicago Press.

Why You Travel

You don’t want the children to know how afraid

you are. You want to be sure their hold on life

is steady, sturdy. Were mothers and fathers

always this anxious, holding the ringing

receiver close to the ear: Why don’t they answer;

where could they be? There’s a conspiracy

to protect the young, so they’ll be fearless,

it’s why you travel—it’s a way of trying

to let go, of lying. You don’t sit

in a stiff chair and worry, you keep moving.

Postcards from the Alamo, the Alhambra.

Photos of you in Barcelona, Gaudi’s park

Swirling behind you. There you are in the Garden

of the master of the Fishing Nets, one red

tree against a white wall, koi swarming

over each other in the thick demoralized pond.

You, fainting at the Buddhist caves.

Climbing with thousands on the Great Wall,

Wearing a straw cap, a backpack, a year

before the students at Tiananmen Square.

Having the time of your life, blistered and smiling.

The acid of your fear could eat the world.

I love this grimness, this “postcards from the freaking edge” feel, the knowledge that she travels to look like she’s more a blithe soul than her reality. So familiar. Wishing you were here, love…

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