Twenty years ago I set off to find her
in fields, cities, libraries, woods, and museums.
Everywhere I went, I took my little notebook
and scribbled down descriptions, impressions
and clues. I was a regular private eye.
Every morning before work, I worked
on them, and slowly they came—
short and long, of love and despair, clever
and simple, a few I still don’t understand.
But she was always two steps ahead.
All these years later, I’m like that fellow
in the Jewish tale who just walks away
from his boring village and the drudgery
of work, children and wife—sets off
for Paradise. Halfway there,
asleep at night, he gets turned around
by an imp (or angel) so when he arrives
right back where he started, he’s not sure
where the hell he is—heaven
or home, earth or Paradise!
I often sit with my coffee in the morning—
after writing in our sleeping house, after making
breakfast and lunches for my two boys,
after looking at my wife’s gentle chin—
and stare out the window, without speaking or writing.
What would I say? How would I put it into words?
In the high school library two kids
at a computer said they missed being kids.
I was kneeling, helping with Word,
and looked up at them, seniors,
young. “I didn’t have to worry
about anything back then,” she said.
He agreed. I was middle-aged
back in the days they were longing for.
I too have longed for days long gone—
biking home in Chicago after work
with a day-game in late innings
in one headphone. Or one evening
when I was a kid and smelled winter
at the end of October, and knew.
My friend Steve told me of a cramped bar
in Iowa City where he used to go to hear
Greg Brown singing his lush grit
before he got famous, before he got old
and his gorgeous rasp went all to shit.
Wasn’t there a hero who journeyed
to the underworld and had to endure ghosts
crowding the gate, desperate for any shred
of what was? Sometimes my neck hurts
and won’t twist as it should. Sometimes
I get dizzy and feel sick if I stand up
too fast. Forward, forward, forward—
this body of mine has no say
in the matter, no matter how hard
I try turning my head so I can look back.
Matthew Murrey is a school librarian in Urbana, Illinois. His poems have appeared most recently in JAMA, Okay Donkey, and One.Bulletproof was published in 2019 by Jacar Press. website