Leaving home is the beginning of resemblance.
— David Seymour
On leaving, you circulate among the things you own
to say farewell, properly,
knowing they will not cease to exist
after your departure, but go,
slowly, each in its own way,
So long and thanks, with one last chop, tap,
twiddle. It won’t work just to
flip them into negatives — minus T-shirt, minus Roger
Tory Peterson both east and west —
nor to convert them into liquid
assets. This is no yard sale, this is loss,
whose interior is larger than its shell, the way you wish
home was. Do not dig the dog’s bones up
nor the rosebush by the porch.
Choose a few companions of no weight —
a crow feather found in the parking lot,
the strawsmell of her hair, a few
books of the dead, 1000
Best Loved Puns
. And leave. There is a loneliness
which must be entered rather than resolved, the moon’s
pull on the roof which made those asphalt shingles
shine. A time for this,
a time for that, a time to let them both escape into
whateverness, a time to cast
away stones, to stop
building and remembering and building artful
monuments upon the memories.
To step off into darker darkness,
that no moon we call new.A Word about the Poem by Don McKay
This poem was originally published in my book Another Gravity
. The poems in that collection are taken up with three large subjects — home, moon, and flight — each of which exerts a gravitational pull on the others. “On Leaving” investigates departure as a human urge on its own, a complement to our vaunted capacity to build dwellings and histories. It suspects that the startling, oblique insights of metaphor stem from that urge, rather than from our primary, perpendicular constructions — which Wallace Stevens, in a poem on metaphor, called the “hammer of red and blue.” I wanted to find words to probe the power of loss implicit in leaving, while doing justice to its attendant pain.
Excerpted from Camber by Don McKay. Copyright © 2004 by Don McKay. Excerpted by permission of McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.