Going Back

By Gregory Djanikian b. 1949 Gregory Djanikian
We have been cruising, half a block   
at a time, my wife, my two children,
all morning, and I have been pointing out   
unhurriedly and with some feeling   
places of consequence, sacred places,   
backyards, lush fields, garages, alleyways.   
“There,” I say, “by this big cottonwood,   
That’s where I dropped the fly ball, 1959.”   
“And in 1961,” I say, “at this very corner,
Barry Sapolsky tripped me up with his gym bag.”   
My son has fallen asleep, my daughter   
has been nodding “yes” indiscriminately   
for the last half hour, and my wife
has the frozen, wide-eyed look of the undead.   
“Maybe lunch,” I say, though I’m making now   
my fourth approach to Curtin Jr. High School,   
yellow-bricked, large-windowed, gothic,
where Frank Marone preyed on our terror once   
and Janice Lehman walked in beauty.   
“Salute, everyone,” I say, “salute,”   
bringing my hand up to my brow as we pass   
the gilded entrance, “This is where things
of importance happened,” and I am pulling out   
from under the car seat a photo album   
of old school pictures, “Page 8,” I say,   
“Fred Decker, John Carlson by the bike rack,   
Mr. Burkett … ,” and driving on, following   
the invisible map before my eyes.
Now we are drifting toward my boyhood house   
and I am showing my wife trellised porches,   
bike routes, more than she’d care to see;
“Why this longing?” she says, “What about now,   
the kids, our lives together, lunch, me?”   
I give her a kiss and turn right on Cherry   
and there in front of our eyes, barely changed,   
is the house where all my memories converge.   
“Look at the windows of my room,” I say,
“see, there, the shadowy figure moving behind them?”   
And before anyone can hope to answer,   
I have grabbed my camera, I am snapping   
pictures through the windshield, bricks,   
dormers, railings, fences, streets, all   
are falling thrall to my aim.
“We could be happy here,” I say, putting   
another roll of film in and beginning
to nose my car toward Bill Corson’s house.   
“Really, Daddy,” my daughter says; “No chance,”   
my wife tacks on, but all I’m hearing   
is the crack of bats in the neighborhood lot   
and Danny’s pearl-handled cap gun going off   
and the drone of bees around honeysuckle   
and Dewey Waugh’s gravelly voice
urging on his mower, and the sound
of wind in the cottonwoods is like water,
I am coasting, there is time for everything.

Gregory Djanikian, “Going Back” from About Distance. Copyright © 1995 by Gregory Djanikian. Used by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press.

Source: About Distance: Poems (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1995)

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Poet Gregory Djanikian b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Time & Brevity, Youth, Living, Family & Ancestors, Midlife, Relationships

 Gregory  Djanikian

Biography

Gregory Djanikian’s collections include So I Will Till the Ground (2007), Years Later (2000), Falling Deeply into America (1989), and The Man in the Middle (1984). His poems have also appeared in numerous magazines and journals, such as Poetry, the Nation, and the American Scholar, as well as on television, when he was featured on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

His work explores, among other things, the private and public . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Youth, Living, Family & Ancestors, Midlife, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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