Homesickness

Jul 3, 2020

Today’s poem is "Homesickness" by Claire Millikin.  She moved to Owls Head, Maine, in 1998, living there year-round until 2007, when she began teaching at the University of Virginia. She returns to live in Owls Head every summer. Claire is the author of six books of poetry, three of which--Motels Where We Lived; Television; and State Fair Animals, have been named finalists for the Maine Literary Award in Poetry. Her most recent book is called Ransom Street (2Leaf Press 2019).

She writes, “'Homesickness' was written in a hotel, en route back to Owls Head after leaving my son at a summer youth conference. He's an only child and my sense of home is very much connected to him. The details of the poem draw from the Natural History Museum in New York City, where I used to go for respite when I was in graduate school. And throughout the poem there is the reflection of a conversation I had with Kiowa (Native American) artist Terri Greeves about the creepiness of natural history museums. So that's all in the mix. As a native of the state of Georgia, I'm also something of an outsider in Maine. I think that's in the poem too, this sense of being estranged from origins."

Homesickness
by Claire Millikin

Natural history museums make me feel
homesick for a history that was never real

and never fits.

Those eerie dioramas, animals flanged by words
narrating their imagined hungers, migrations,
progeny.

I’d kneel for hours listening in an ersatz
cave to the music of a paleolithic flute,
maybe

it was bone, or reed, or wood, or maybe entirely
fabricated. Just a theory of notes –

the reconstructed burial site of some early hominid
covered with flowers, archeologists found the
seeds thousands of years later 

and believed

the flowers were laid in mourning.

It never ends, this mourning for home

We said, alright, we’ll drive all night ‘til it comes to
us, til we see that house, of empty space.

Home lies further

back in time, a parking lot with a glaring light.

I see no collocation, only sky

shouldered by black trees in a country of highways.

A letter I’ve written so many times over 

 meaning to send it
home, to tell them I’ve
survived,

that I’m still looking, carrying my
bones and eyes, my own eyes,
luminous gaps.

Poem copyright © 2019 Claire Millikin by permission of Claire Millikin.