Big Tent/WWP Poem #42: The Way Back Home

if I could unravel the threads that ever live behind my skin, I could
find it. There are so many exposed, raw and frayed ends,
and as I have said before,
I pull on them so that you don’t. Watch me
pull away this sweater of a skin, blow the dust off
my bones, and climb the stairs to an attic
that ever collects: there is nothing sacred and safe
from being stolen from walls, from projector screens,
or from the air. Everything is carried home, purloined
beneath the archway of my arm,
slumbering against ribs cradled with adipose and skin,
nestled in the crook of my elbow.

There are trunks. Worn wood and brass for skin,
straight-edge lids for mouths. I can open them and make them speak,
give up every ghost of a secret. Inside their throats
live countless Punky Brewster episodes and entire Doors albums;
pages that shhhh gently against my fingertips;
phantoms of acted-out Lewis Carroll dreams. But I am still looking
for that pesky Drink Me bottle; when I find it, I will
quaff the last of my dreams and grow above the trees. Then, I can
turn my breath into wind and salute them until
their crowns bend away from me in my exhale.

And along with that, I keep searching for the
map. I am sure there is one; I last remember seeing it
when I was six. It was hand-drawn, a neat cacophony
of straight lines and loud crayon that spoke in arrowed points, bold curves,
and a now-forsaken legend lying in the bottom right-hand corner
of the sea. Next to it, a windblown rose bloomed in
thirty-two sword blade points, compass petals open to sky and
eye. I think that when I was three, I drew it out
during some night reverie, sleep-locked and crayon-fingered,
and began to follow it while Polaris drew her veils around me and
whispered in Persian blue (no one knows this, but She does this
for every child below the age of twelve).

Make no mistake: every child draws a map to
lead them back to their safest place, their home. I suspect
that mine is not in the attic trunks, but inside the one lying
encircled by a ladder of rib bones. It is the only trunk
that is also a drum, keeping steady time to which I march, I breathe, and
I dance, electrified with a bass line spine
and stamping thunder into Earth’s back (rest assured, She does not mind
our loud awakenings and revelries). Some days, the map
is what I dance for, trying to call up old legend and spiraling wind roses
with each step: it is my own Ghost Dance, composed
when I was eighteen. Hear me, O Prophets! I keep looking for the world
to fall away, the answers held up before my eyes
in the palm of fire.

I need no vision quest. When I was twelve, the words began
psalming out of my pen in plumes of fire: that told me
all I needed to know. But home is still a
skyscraper question mark standing over me in
Superman stance and with switchblade precision – my ears
unravel themselves and bleed from the interrogatives. But I know
that the map lies inside me,
and as I have said before,
maybe you will see me dance. But this time, it will be
to call up those old crayon lines, the legend, and the opened rose. It will be
to tug the old prophet in my belly by the hand and coax her to talk. It will be
to find the sand lines and follow them to tug on the Thunderbird’s tail and
beseech him for passage: last I checked, he was headed
for that long forgotten North Star. When I get there, I will say hello to Her –
and tell Her that you are on your way back home.

Written 2/17/11
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem was written for two prompts: Big Tent Poetry’s Monday Prompt, in which we were asked to think of a title for a poetry collection we’d like to assemble and then write the poem for that title; and We Write Poems Prompt #42: Safe Place in which we were to make an define what a safe place would be for us. This hearkens back to several other poems I’ve written (you’ll see the links in the poem), and “The Way Back Home” is a working title for a future collection of poetry. I hope you enjoyed reading this poem.


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
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10 Responses to Big Tent/WWP Poem #42: The Way Back Home

  1. pamela says:

    Nicole I always enjoy reading your words.
    I love the part about the map drawn with
    crayons. You make the images come alive.


  2. Laurie Kolp says:

    Absolutely breathtaking!

  3. Tumblewords says:

    When you find the map… I love the searching imagery you’ve found for this delightful piece.

  4. Also like the bits that involve the map. It seems like there may be several poems in here!

  5. The Epic Journey! I love the specific elements that pop out (Polaris whispering in Persian blue, the Ghost Dance, the Doors albums) that fit with this whole idea of dancing out the map. Mythological and brilliantly developed, as always.

  6. Wow…what a stunning piece. I bet this is even better when read aloud. Absolutely love it!!

  7. wayne says:

    this is a wonderful read Nicole….thanks for sharing all your words

  8. ms pie says:

    i can’t help but to stop and touch every part… turn it over and see what’s under… i loved every second… a rushing fast and then an ever so slow cascade…. colored crayons dusty attics birds flying north….. a fascinating journey raven… i’m glad to see the map…

  9. Irene says:

    Your poems are always so epic, Nicole. The theme of personal power resounds loudly here. We’re all finding our way home, that is the ultimate quest, where we’ll feel safe finally.

  10. neil reid says:

    Navigate, navigate. Heavy seas, far eyes. A treasure to find. But it’s not out there, it’s where the compass always begins, the point on which it pivots no matter the direction sought. Wonderful complex threads you weave. (My head spins a little. But that’s alright.) I did especially like the trunks, and the one that was the last of them. Sailors take care! Winds blow here.

    Thanks Nicole. Colors like the crayon box spilled out over the floor.

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