homesickness snapshot

Fifteen years after we left, my husband
was there and took the picture. Dirty
robin’s egg blue walls of the old crumbling building, grimy
white of the trim around each window frame and
columns in the corners, a roof in dull grey.
It is November, slush outside, mix of melting
white snow and brown earth under the feet of my family
in front of the building entrance. Neighbour’s windows
look at me. My mother smiles into the camera in the black coat
that we bought for her here, my brother looking so much
older than the last time I saw him, my father in the back,
the nephew I never met and my niece. It is November,
sky dirty blue-grey just like I remember as I look at the date
stamped fifteen years ago, in the middle of their absence in my life.

~ Ella Zeltserman

I came to live in Edmonton as a refugee from the former Soviet Union in February of 1980. The themes of emigration, loosing one’s home, finding a new home away from home, and homesickness are constant themes in my poetry.

When I emigrated, with my husband and my daughter, home became us. Wherever we were at the time was home. HOME on the other hand was what we left and as the years went by, it became bigger and bigger, expanding to include the streets, the buildings, the river, the bridges, the faces of people we left, the smell of melting snow, the color of sky at White Nights, the flowering lilac, and an endless other details, which merged into all encompassing HOME. It took many years before us and the physical space we occupied became part of Edmonton, dissolved into the fabric of the city. Edmonton, it’s streets, it’s smell, it’s sounds, it’s people became HOME. As the years go by Edmonton home also expands to become as big as the one we left.

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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