You Can Go Home Again…But Probably Shouldn’t
Last Saturday I’m at a burger joint
down on Broadway that’s been there
as long as I can remember.
It used to be part of a chain
called The Boll Weevil.
Now it’s called Bull’s Eye,
but it’s the same place:
basically burgers and beer.
Half a block down the street
from Bull’s Eye/Boll Weevil
is a 7-Eleven store which,
when I was in high school,
was a Shell gas station.
I had my first weekend job there.
Across the street from the restaurant,
in full view from the window,
is the mortuary in which both of my parents
and my younger sister were cremated.
So I’m eating a hamburger and drinking a beer
on the same street, nay the same block,
where I had my first job,
and where half my family
went up the chimney.
Words coalesce, take shape: farmhouses, mountains, trees
become distinct only slowly. The fogbank begins to lift,
and gradually you see the things you recognize, remember.
But what were farmhouses, mountains, trees, or for that matter,
supermarkets, drugstores and banks, before you could name them?
Learning to name names is among our first tasks, and words,
as anyone looking for the bon mot has found, are as slippery
as spaghetti over the sink, steaming, drenched in olive oil.
The world coalesces, comes out of the fog itself, when you’re
four, five, six … Naming names, words whirling. Taking shape.
The kid next door beat me up. My sister called him a little bass turd.
A bass was a fish. I knew that. “Turd” was a playground word.
Then one November afternoon someone shot the president.
Our teacher told us Monday would be a day of mourning.
(a magazine said Kennedy had been killed by something called
“a snipper.”) But a day of “mourning,” imagine that: could it be?
Could morning be made to last all day by government decree?
I thought about the sun, frozen over the mountains, as they say
It froze over the desert in the Book of Joshua. We Cub Scouts
stood hushed before the TV. But a “day of morning” appealed to me.
Now, with memory making gaps,
mountains glimpsed from the desert floor,
mind often takes an unassisted walk,
the initiative. File-searching, old as
the brain itself, a mystery until now.
The laptop is my idiot twin,
working, asleep. Name-searching
is similar, vain effort: I think
my head will explode over coffee.
Then revelation, as I water the lawn.
Distraction, while the flat screen spews,
and a sharpening. You glance to the left
late at night, in TCM’s flickering glare
to see that the clock reads 12:15,
off-target and on-focus, as old age
often is. When the desert was all,
stars and philosophers were framed
in the prophet’s language, and it was said
of the sharp-eyed that they could see
Alcor. I see it now, skirting the pole;
it is an effort, in these gaps, no doubt,
perceiving (and sometimes not.)
But the name comes from nowhere:
memory pops, and yes: there’s Alcor.
Kelley Dupuis was born in Vermont in 1955. He grew up in Chula Vista and attended CV High. He was a journalism and history major at San Diego State University and went on to work at a newspaper and in radio journalism. He was also foreign service officer of the U.S. State Department for fourteen years and taught English in Georgia, China, Russia and Turkey. He is the author of five books. You can read more by Kelley at his blog, Night Thoughts At Noon.