How many instruments
can we make
from this old boot?

At the end of the day
a road is still a road
and we are still writers
carving pieces of tar
to help us remember.

But this place
is the difference between
junkyard and museum.

They used to tie the laces of visitors
hang their boots from overhead wires

I was here

but now, these boots travel in a company
view the world as a flock.

We build the roads
to take us here, and here
they could mean anything
map or sign
we forget to leave.

I’m tracking dust
from the edges of this city
on heavy limbs –
the airborne debris
and sometimes filth
they ask us to check
at the border.

But there is something else in these pockets
more than foreign coins and
coloured stones
these hands, nails like
glass, clicking against metal
and fumbling the passport
they refuse to stamp on arrival.

I’ve been walking the streets like Ginsberg
alleys like Kerouac, under city lights
beating through these landmarks
pulling me back but

this is a new road

it curves back to where we started
a land that grows poets like wheat

Homesickness is only
sickness if you don’t
like where you’ve been.

~ Nicole Pakan

Nicole Pakan is an active member of the Edmonton literary community, performing and organizing events around the city. She is the Co-Editor for the international online and print literary journal DailyHaiku. Her recent publication credits include poems in: filling Station, The Prairie Journal, Other Voices, Notebook Magazine, Misunderstandings Magazine, The Toronto Quarterly and blue skies poetry. She was short-listed for the CV2 2-day poem contest for 2008 and was the winner of the 2009 Edmonton CBC Poetry Faceoff.

While exploring the foreign cities and landscapes, I found myself contemplating the concepts of citizen and visitor as well as the implements of travel—boots, car, plane, soil, roadmap, landmarks. The things we pack in our suitcase to remind ourselves of home (that shirt I never wear but always bring) and the things we collect to remind ourselves of where we’ve travelled (the found stones that I can’t bear to leave behind). I think for many writers, the poem is the souvenir.

Read more of Nicole Pakan’s poetry:
The Sand Remembers
4 Days

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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