…She found her exhale, …
This is the line that captivated me. Being one who has spent her life learning to respire, a supposedly natural kinesthetic ability we should easily master from birth. But no. Like the voice in this poem, by habit, I am a breath holder, a body holder, a holder of many things that do not belong to me. It is by conscious thought and years of practice that I have come to the exquisite pleasure of the experience known as a full breath.
Meet poet, Emily Madapusi Pera. In her poem Somewhere South, Ms. Pera speaks eloquently of journeying, of letting go & starting over. This work is seated in the physicality of experience, in the breath, in the body, in the ways landscapes and locales shape us: disenchanting, interesting, binding or expanding us:
…the train approached a stretch of water
So blue and vast that her muscles sighed
The poet’s litany of images, of the
…America that met the edges
of railroad tracks:
Forgotten toys at the way-backs of yards,…
is Whitman-esque in its ability to conjure by naming a montage of the ordinary, leaving the reader riding the train alongside the poet, images clipping by, window by window.
Like many, the voice in the poem is looking
To be transported to another place,
The poem can be read to mean that the poet is physically traveling, taking a geographical cure, relocating from the Northern to the Southern United States. She tells us she is headed southward to
…Destinations filled with the miraculous certainty
Of a train timetable,…
Ah! To find “miraculous certainty” anywhere may be an impossibility, but the poet holds on to her hope.
Or, the poem can take us deeper than geography: showing us that life can be traveled, like a train, along any track one chooses and that finding place is less a matter of landscapes and locales and more a matter of finding a home for the heart.
Read Somewhere South in its entirety here.
Emily Madapusi Pera is a writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Her poems and stories have been published by Tuck Magazine, Litro, Dissident Voice, Storgy Magazine, A3 Review, and Scout & Birdie, among others. She is a native of Chicago. You can follow her at www.actinkindness.com.
images: used by permission of the artist and via Creative Commons unless otherwise noted. Some Rights reserved. #1) self portrait by Chris Burke #2) still water at dusk by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho #3) Tracks by Karen Green #4) Hurt by Celeste Pascual
d. ellis phelps is the author of this blog and of the novel, Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016).