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Staying Behind

26 April, 2015: Staying Behind


by Meredith Holmes
Staying Behind
Your photos, once folded in tender, vein-blue
airmail tissue, now grafted to emails, reveal
the beauty of the Adriatic world – lakes
with island castles, rivers circling ancient
red-roofed cities: Europe with an Asian tang;
forests, mountains, fishing villages, wild horses.
But I get the feeling this is just background.
In the foreground are your petulant girl friends,
all with the same porn star smiles and over-
plucked eyebrows, and when I finish reading the
letters, they keep talking — your Pavla, Vesna,
or Marija — berating the florist for
running out of yellow freesias, shrieking at
the waiter for ruining the calamari,
sulking until you buy her more jewelry.
I thought you wanted to be appreciated,
to belong deeply and cleave to your soul home,
which is not here, of course, the place you were born,
where I remain, opening and reading your letters.
Tell me, which one of us is home, which away?
What a mobius strip the expat life is!
The idea of home an irrational surface
twisting out of sight, becoming its opposite.
Lately, you’ve been hinting you’re ready to exit
the land of cevapcici sausage, lame dogs,
and tiny bathrooms. Just remember, back home
we’re still raw, ambitious, soaked in immigrant grief.
Spring here is nothing but a knife to the heart,
and we’re close to joy only in November,
sky reddening, air smelling of oil and iron.
All this will seem familiar at first, then strange.
“Staying Behind” by Meredith Holmes, from (upcoming) I’m Not From Here. Pond Road Press, 2015. Used by permission of the author.
Meredith Holmes lives in Cleveland Heights and, in 2005, served as that city’s first Poet Laureate. Her book, Shubad’s Crown, was published in 2003 by Pond Road Press. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems for Bad Times, the 2013 Kattywompus Press collection While You Were Sleeping I Dreamt a Poem and Awake at the End, published by Bottom Dog Press, 2008. Meredith’s second book of poems, I’m Not From Here, is due out from Pond Road Press in 2015. She will serve a second term as the Poet Laureate of Cleveland Heights in 2015 – 16.


Gone, not forgotten.

Write an elegy for something (rather than someone) that you have lost, using the three traditional stages of the elegy for three parts of your poem: the lament for the loss, praise for the lost, and consolation for those left behind.

Tricia Knoll
This poem speaks to me deeply. The surprise of springs knife to the heart. November's air smelling of iron and oil.
4/26/2015 2:35:03 PM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.