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"You can't go home again," said Thomas Wolfe, and you can't put your hand in the same river twice. Change is relentless. But we can still, in memory, go back to where we were. This poem is by P. Ivan Young, who lives in Omaha. It was first published in The Cortland Review. His most recent book is Smell of Salt, Ghost of Rain, from Brick House Books.


The entrance at the back of the complex

led onto a road, where an upended couch

tilted into a ditch and a washing machine

gleamed avocado beneath pine needles.


From the end, you turned left and left again,

then cut a trail to find the cul-de-sac

of bright brick houses. We'd walk as far

as we dared before a man pushing a mower


might stop to ask, "whadda you boys need?"

That was a question we could never answer.

I loved the name of the place, White Hall,

imagined that each interior was a stretch


of marble perfect wall adorned by smiling

photos of the family. Our own halls

were brailled with nail holes of former

tenants, the spackled rounds of fists.


But doesn't longing clarify the body?

The boys I left behind: Tommy, wearing

the World War II trenching tool;

Danny, whose father, so much older


than the other parents, died in his recliner

one sunny afternoon while watching baseball;

Duke, who stole his mother's car and crashed

into a wall. Boys who knew when you were posing,


waiting for someone to say, "smile." Boys

who, on those latch-key days, held themselves

in narrow passages when no one

was there to show them what to do.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2013 by P. Ivan Young, “Visiting the Neighborhood,” from The Cortland Review, (No. 59, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of P. Ivan Young and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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