Sunday, September 30, 2012


I am surprisingly - shockingly - homesick today and attribute it to the cool, grey gloom.

Nothing chants "Chicago Chicago Chicago" as steadily or persistently as bad weather.

The upside of a fit of meteorologically-induced melancholy is that it makes me curious. A hint of longing sends me snooping through dark, dank parts of my brain.

So, as is habit when self awareness sneaks up on me, I set out this morning in search of a poem to help sort through what I'm feeling. Unsurprisingly, Longfellow and Frost met me first.

A feeling of sadness and longing,
that is not akin to pain
and resembles sorrow only
as the mist resembles rain.

Come, read to me some poem,
some simple and heartfelt lay
that shall soothe this restless feeling
and banish the thoughts of day. 
- From The Day is Done, HW Longfellow

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words." - Robert Frost

I would love to find the words to express longing and homesickness in my own terms rather than relying on the rhymes of dead white guys. But, dammit, they aren't there. In a Sisyphean game of Hide-and-Seek (that's right, I mashed up mythology and recess) words lie low in the dark, dusty places. Over and over I almost but. not. quite. find them. It's maddening.

Frequently when you grow up in Chicago, the first poet you study is Carl Sandburg. I'm fairly certain the themes and straightforward language of his work influenced my preference for pragmatic poetry. To this day every time - every time - the weather is soft and thick I think of this poem. It reminds me of being small and fishing with my step-father at a downtown marina.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Mister Lewis, another favorite, gets the last word on this whole melancholy mess:

"Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fantasy, but the truest index of our real situation."
-  C.S. Lewis