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Carol Royal

Going Home

I don’t live here anymore.

Twenty-five years of days

Supplant my past.

A different life,

New memories; themselves grown old,

A different, older me.


But I return; I return

To a place I still call Home,

Imprinted on my mind.

A street, house, a place no longer mine.


Soft memories wrap me round

Like a warmed blanket waiting to enfold me

When I rushed in from the snow

Long ago.


Smells seduce me, and I breathe deeply,

Filling my lungs with the past¾

Not able to hold my breath¾

Then exhaling, as I must,

Releasing the past; accepting the present.


I hear a train whistle blow,

A melancholy proclamation over space and time,

Bringing my father back.

Again and again it sounds

As it slowly distances itself

And I mourn his loss anew.


Along the old roads, the strangeness

Of new houses, new pastures, new streets

Shadowed by the familiarity

Of old trees, old houses, old creeks, old lands

In memory in sight.

Sometimes one; sometimes the other.


Our house is empty now,

Periodically revived by visits

From one grown child or another.

The heart is gone though.

Mother is not here.


No more burdened tables at holidays.

She eats her soft, bland food from a tray

Presented by a courteous attendant.

But in memory, I still taste her chicken and dressing,

Rich with oysters, chopped eggs, and love.


When the heart is gone,

The links are broken.

Family drifts apart

Like dandelions seeds on the wind.

They drop to grow new memories, new pasts.


Memory distorts, fades, transforms itself.

Only photographs record the lost moments.

Which is real?

Look at the background, not the faces.

Memory sharpens; the past floods my eyes

And my heart.

Winter Visitors

On warm February days

Winter-flat on Texas fields,

Rejecting proffered bread from children’s hands,

Black-stockinged Canadians stretch their wings and honk.

Uncertain of their plans—

Is winter really gone?


Restlessly they float upon the lake.

Suddenly, in concert, they feel the call.

Wings flapping, they rise and follow the lead—

One hundred, then ten, then twenty

Until the sky is filled with resonant cries,

All disappearing into the winter night.


At twilight they return

Settling on the still surface of the lake—

Quieter now, landing with muffled wings.

Winter will come again

Before the final exodus begins,

Home to the cold spring valleys of the north.


Like the geese who answer the haunting call,

I, too, feel the urging of the warmer air,

Longing to escape from winter’s thrall.

But ties and promises

United to keep me here.

My springtime fields exist in memory.

No life-renewing northern nest for me.


The geese await, listening for the sign.

A week, a day, soon they will take flight.

And I—earthbound, placebound—

Will feel not joy, but grief.

Their parting celebrates a cycle of new life.

I cannot go; and sadness pinions me.

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