by Terri Kirby Erickson
One of the most emotionally charged words in the English language has to be “home.” For good or ill, this is the place where our lives begin and often where they end, if we are fortunate. For most people, hearing, reading or simply thinking about the word, “home,” conjures up feelings of warmth and comfort, love and acceptance—a portal through which we may enter either physically or emotionally, that seems almost magical in its ability to heal and to nurture our minds and bodies. Above all, home is a “safe haven” in a world fraught with risk and uncertainty.
“Home” can also be embodied by a person or any number of people with whom we associate feelings of warmth and acceptance—our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, lovers or close friends. When we are with these people or even thinking about them, we feel the utmost sense of connection and intimacy. After all, they are the ones who know and love us just as we are, “warts” and all. We often yearn to be in their company for at least long enough to gather the necessary resources to face the rest of civilization, since most people are not as kindly disposed to look over our quirks and faults. In fact, the people outside of our “home circle” are often our competitors with whom we feel we must “measure up” in the work environment, even if we view them as cordial co-workers, valued team mates, and even friends.
For all the reasons stated above, and because I’m one of the fortunate people who grew up in a loving and supportive environment, “home” is a recurrent theme in many of my poems. Of course, I understand that homes can also be abusive and as frightening if not more so, than any place in the world at large. But nothing and no one can control our minds, and we can create a haven for ourselves within the confines of our own imaginations, if nowhere else. We all know what we need and want, even if our needs and wants aren’t being fulfilled. It is my feeling that poems and stories that validate our ideas of what a home can or should be, give us something to work towards, something to imagine during the times when the reality is something quite different, at least for now—and I take this responsibility very seriously in my work.
In my latest collection, Telling Tales of Dusk (Press 53), there are many poems that refer to various aspects of “home.” In a poem called, “Star Lite Motel,” travelers find a welcoming oasis at a local “inn,” where “the name/Star Lite Motel shines through the windows like a benediction.” In the poem, “Daisy Chain,” drivers pass a mother chatting with neighbors by the side of the road, whose children are gathered around her, creating a “scene like this: belonging so/palpable, it beat like a heart/on the pavement." And in the poem, “Oak Tree,” which refers to an old oak that is “leaning over a farmhouse where the same/family has lived for generations,” the oak is a symbol of stability as it “keeps watch outside their/little farmhouse, its arms spread wide/over their comings and goings…,” the very sight of which stirs the hearts and minds of those who dwell beneath its branches.
“He travels toward the horizon with the steady gait
of someone with a place to go, whose tender gaze
will soon find home, that place more sacred than
communion wafers nestled in the palms of angels.”
Peace and love,
Terri Kirby Erickson
July 30, 2010